As impressed as the small crowd was Monday of the newest additions to the Allen County Regional Hospital grounds — a relocated gazebo and a nearly mile-long crushed limestone trail — it’s just as important to recognize the efforts that went into bringing both to reality, Iolan Lisse Regehr noted.
“That is how this kind of stuff happens,” said Regehr, executive director of Thrive Allen County. “Community members get together and say, ‘we want more for our community.’”
Regehr spoke Monday at a ribbon cutting for the trail and gazebo dedication. She was joined by hospital administrator Jeremy Armstrong in acknowledging those who helped.
The project is part of a larger effort to get more people to enjoy the hospital as a means for a healthier community, Regehr explained.
“What we’re trying to create, in partnership with the hospital, is an area where guests, community members and patients alike can come out here and heal,” Regehr said.
She noted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital had rapidly become a popular gathering spot for folks in town to meet in the cafeteria for meals.
And while that pastime was largely halted during the pandemic, public meals have resumed once again, and Iolans are slowly returning to ACRH to congregate.
The walking trail, funded through a Health Forward Foundation grant, is open to everyone, from hospital staffers or patients or folks in the community just looking for a leisurely stroll. It runs along the perimeter of the hospital property and extends into a picturesque wooded area. Diners are welcome to burn off a few calories after lunch, Regehr said.
Or, they can relax in the gazebo — moved nearer the trail earlier this year from the opposite side of the ACRH grounds — to be part of a healing garden.
Newly installed musical percussion instruments, including a xylophone and drums, were added, courtesy of an AARP grant, Regehr noted.
“We’re working on all of the different ways health and healing comes together,” she said.
She lauded the efforts of the teams of workers and volunteers, showing off a list of more than a dozen entries.
“I hope every day we could do a ribbon cutting and I have to go up in front of you with a list of people to thank,” she said.
And it’s not yet complete.
Master gardener Patti Boyd is consulting with hospital groundskeepers and Thrive staffers to develop a memorial garden surrounding the gazebo.
“We’ll bring you back when things are blooming,” Regehr promised.
Additionally, the hospital intends to replace memorial stones that had been at the old hospital site in downtown Iola, but have been sitting in storage since ACRH opened in 2013.
Those plans, too, are still in development.
Armstrong echoed Regehr’s gratitude, acknowledging Thrive’s effort as a driving force behind both projects.
“This wouldn’t have happened without their work,” he said. “I can speak on behalf of the hospital and board, our providers and the staff and the community (in saying) we feel blessed with these gifts we’ve been given. We look forward to taking care of it. We hope the community and patients appreciate it.”
The ceremony concluded with several audience members walking a circuit along the trail, at eight-tenths of a mile, while others tried their hand at tapping out a tune on the instruments.