BY LISA WARREN
Lace up those walking shoes, the Laughlin Memorial Hospital Wellness Trail is officially complete.
Hospital officials, staff members and guests gathered Friday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate completion of the public walking trail.
The one-mile paved trail, which circles the Laughlin campus on Tusculum Boulevard, is open free-of-charge to anyone who would like to use it.
Hospital officials announced plans last August for the walking trail. Original plans were to have it completed by December, but wet weather in the fall and winter months delayed its full completion until recently, said LMH president and CEO Chuck Whitfield.
"However, even with the delay, the trail was being used from the day the crushed rock was first laid, and it has continued to be used ever since," Whitfield said.
"The number of people who have taken advantage of our new trail has really amazed me," he added.
"Morning, noon or night, I don't think I have been by the hospital and not seen someone out walking," Whitfield said.
"It is our hope," he stated, "that we will continue to see the number of walkers increase."
A sign at the start of the trail, located in front of the Laughlin Medical Office Building complex, welcomes the public to enjoy the trail with the following rules:
* Walk at your own risk;
* Wellness Trail is closed at dark;
* Smoking or the use of other tobacco products is not allowed;
* No dogs of any breed or other animals or pets are allowed;
* No bicycles, skateboards, incline skates or scooters are allowed;
* No motorized vehicles or other mobile equipment are allowed;
* Wheelchairs, motorized and non-motorized, and child strollers are allowed;
* Please place litter, cans and bottles in the nearest trash receptacle.
Whitfield gave special thanks to three individuals who were instrumental in making the trail become a reality:
* Jennifer Salyer, of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, Inc., who served as the landscape architect and project manager;
* Randy Brown, of Brown Brothers Paving, who oversaw the actual construction of the trail, and
* Eric Hankins, of Hankins & Weems Landscaping, who maintain the hospital grounds and "did a wonderful job of putting everything back together after the construction was completed."
Tracy Green, LMH Wellness Program director, said she was "thrilled" to announce that the Laughlin Walking Trail has been certified by the American Heart Association, making it one of the first in the region with that designation.
Marty Price, regional director of the American Heart Association, attended the ribbon-cutting and said he is "glad to see that Laughlin Hospital is helping the community live healthier lives" through the implementation of the walking trail.
Price also praised the hospital for its strong history of support for the American Heart Association's "Heart Walk."
For years, LMH has been a major fundraising entity in the region for the American Heart Walk, Price said.