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Hospital takes lead in trails for health

Logansport Memorial Hospital becomes an Indiana town’s trail advocate.

arrow From the Fall 2008 American Trails Magazine

By Vicki Byrd

photo: women and strollers on trail
River Bluff Trail in Logansport, Indiana

In 2000, Logansport Memorial Hospital (LMH) began to recognize the impact that unhealthy lifestyles were having on our county as well as the state of Indiana. Indiana ranked (and continues to rank) among the highest states in a number of critical unhealthy behaviors. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles had become normal among a large percentage of our population and the increase of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. were just a few of the consequences that were evident to the hospital. The hospital was determined to positively impact the community and set out to be the resource for optimal health.

A taskforce of healthcare leaders and community members was formed in an effort to analyze the health status of Cass County and identify solutions that would positively change the direction of the community. Some drivers of obesity and sedentary lifestyles were identified to be fast food consumption, increased hours of daily television watching or videotapes, playing video games, using the computer and the internet, driving everywhere, and few safe places to be active. The group was interested in long-term solutions, not quick fixes.

photo of stone labyrinth
Stone labyrinth along the trail

At the same time the taskforce was formed, the hospital was preparing to celebrate its 75th birthday and was looking for a gift to share with the community. The idea of creating a community trail, utilizing abandoned sections of the Vandalia Railroad line just two blocks away from the hospital was born. In 2002, the LMHF applied for and received $150,000 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to build a basic, crushed-stone path.

Then hospital officials suggested a local campaign to raise more money and make the trail even better. The hospital issued a challenge: for every dollar contributed by hospital employees, the hospital would match another dollar up to $100,000. Combined with donations from local businesses, physicians and citizens, the hospital campaign raised more than $700,000. Landowners chipped in as well, donating parcels of property adjacent to the corridor.

In 2004 River Bluff Trail was opened. The trail features a handicap-accessible paved trail and canoe/kayak launch, three bridges, picnic area, rest stops, entrances and parking at both ends. With more than 4000 users per week, the trail has rapidly become a Cass County destination for health, leisure and recreational activities, including multiple running events and many school functions.

Since that time, the initiative has continued to grow and LMH has opened the Hervey Preserve, a 35-acre nature preserve which incorporates a labyrinth and 1.1 mile crushed stone trail and recently accepted an 80-acre tract of land (Huston Property) which will be developed into a central park for the community. The Huston Property will include a variety of sports venues (softball, soccer, etc), an amphitheatre, Spray Park and additional walking trails which will connect the three land masses together.

photo: trail through woods

 

 

LMH has become the facilitator for county trail collaboration. The goal has been to create a planned, safe and accessible trail system that allows for a variety of outdoor activities. Recent collaborative efforts have led to the acquisition of a Transportation Enhancement Grant (TEA), which will add an additional 4 miles of connecting trails.

The TEA project also boasts a footbridge crossing the Eel River, which allows residents to access the River Bluff Trail, Hervey and Huston Property from the south. In addition, through collaborative efforts, the community was able to secure additional funding to complete a trail system called the PanHandle in northern Cass County.

Constituents from all walks of life have been involved in this community effort –local elected officials; community leaders, including city/county park officials; county planners; economic developers; donors and funders; educators; volunteers and residents-at-large. The initiative has built on our community pride and has created a strong sense of place.

photo: deer on the trail

 

 

In 2004, in cooperation with the IU School of Medicine, LMH measured the health impact of a public fitness trail system on the community. 195 participants completed the screenings and the findings identified 30% improved endurance; 27% improved blood pressure; 27% improved total cholesterol measurements; and 6% improved BMI.

These initial findings have continued to be supported through anecdotal feedback that is gathered on a regular basis about the trails. LMH is currently engaged in a community health assessment that will provide us and community organizations with general information related to the health and wellness of the community. These findings will establish a baseline that will allow us to measure the improved health of our residents in the future.

For more information on Logansport Memorial Hospital, visit www.logansportmemorial.org or contact Vicki Byrd at vbyrd@logansportmemorial.org.

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