Fort Kent ~ A group of individuals at Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) have been busy clearing land to create a walking trail on hospital property to promote the wellness of its employees and to provide convenient access to an additional opportunity to be healthy. It is a well known fact that the availability of exercise options within the workplace removes some of the barriers for employees who say they do not have enough time to exercise after they leave the workplace. NMMC employees currently have access to a small indoor gym in Fort Kent and Madawaska and free memberships to athletic facilities in both towns.
For over a year, NMMC has participated in Let’s Go! Healthy Workplace, a nationally recognized obesity prevention initiative. Let’s Go! Healthy Workplace uses multi-setting approaches to reach youth and family where they live, learn, work and play to increase healthy eating and active living behaviors. Offering opportunities such as the new walking trail, as part of the work environment, supports individuals to make healthy choices. The trail is one that existed years ago and had become overgrown and impassable in some sections. When the Gray Nuns had a presence at NMMC, the trail was used to access a small cabin used by the nuns for recreation. The cabin no longer exists but remnants were found of a children’s clubhouse further up the trail that once provided a play area for neighborhood kids. All of the work done to clean up and beautify the trail has been done by employees themselves and by in-kind donations such as access to excavation equipment from J.R. Boucher. Ron Daigle donated his carpentry skills and much of the cleaning of brush was done by Joey Bard, Roger and Charlene Taggart and Wayne Theriault on their personal time. Travis Jandreau and Dean Lavoie also provided assistance in clearing brush.
The trail loop measures three quarters of a mile and is equipped with an outhouse built by Ron Daigle and a picnic table donated by the Taggarts making it convenient for employees to use the area during work breaks. A contest was held to name the trail and planning is now in progress to develop various stations along the path where employees can stop and stretch and just enjoy the beauty that nature offers high above the St. John River bank. Employees will also be building raised gardens before snow flies and small perennial gardens will be planted from donations out of personal flower gardens. Peter Sirois, NMMC CEO said, “Our employees are the strength of our organization. Providing opportunities to exercise is a win-win situation. Our employees are happy to have the access to various exercise options and it supports the hospital mission for creating an environment that promotes health and wellness of the people who work here.” Sirois said enough hospital owned property exists to expand the trail in the future simply by clearing more brush and reopening more sections. The Employee Activity Committee has begun formulating plans for weekend events, such as snowshoeing, to raise awareness and encourage employees to use the trail during the winter for snowshoeing. A celebration is planned to unveil the completed trail this Fall.