You want to find a good fishing hole? Try the local hospital. How about a place to jog or walk? Again, the local hospital.
That’s the message Newton Medical Center is trying to get out to the public. The campus grounds are open for recreational activities, including the pond in the front of the facilities.
"Our intention in stocking that lake with fish is to invite people as part of our campus renewal project called ‘Healthy Lifestyle Campus,’" NMC president and CEO Val Gleason said. "We want people to come and enjoy our grounds and our assets when they are not sick. The lake, and the pathway around the lake, seem like a great first start in inviting folks to just come and enjoy nature and enjoy each other. Back in September of 2017, we began meeting with various community members and our staff, our medical staff, about our Healthy Lifestyle Campus."
The lake is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish — as well as minnows and crawdads to help feed those fish. The lake also is stocked with grass carp, a non-game fish, to help with vegetation control.
"The catfish look like they’ve grown quite a bit," said NMC chief medical officer Dr. Charles Craig. "I’ve caught some bluegill, but I haven’t caught any bass yet, so I can’t speak to how they’re doing. I think anybody that wants to can fish these grounds. You do not need a license."
"If someone is hungry and needs a source of food, they can come to the lake and fish," Gleason said. "They can take their fish home with them and clean it and eat it."
The pond stocking was done by Hartley Fish Farm near Kingman.
Wading in the pond is not encouraged because of the steep banks. The pond’s original purpose was to collect run-off from the campus grounds.
"The banks are pretty steep, so it’s not suitable to wade in," Gleason said. "It was excavated and constructed in a way that fits with city requirements to make a proper drainage of the campus. We’d like people to stay up on the shore and not get down in it."
Gleason said she had no firm numbers, but she said there has been usage of the facilities.
"I’ve seen people out there almost every day," she said. "I’ve seen more in the evenings and weekends. That’s what we want."
The path around the campus is 2/3 of a mile. It has various fitness stations along the way, where various exercises can be performed.
"If you start out at the flag pole at the front of the hospital, you’ll see a gateway there that explains about the pond and the pathways," Gleason said. "Along side the path, with the help of one of our physicians, we installed fitness stations. There are 10 different stations where you can stop and do various exercises that build and promote muscle strength. We see people out there on the path every day. It seems to get more and more use. We’re seeing a lot of people on it now — families, bicyclists."
The path connects with the city of Newton bike path that runs from Southeast 14th Street to Glen Creek Drive.
"That was our intent," Gleason said. "We wanted to connect our path to the sidewalk. The city was very cooperative in allowing us to do that for the idea of promoting the health of the community. This is one of the ways we’re reaching out beyond the four walls of the hospital."
Gleason said there has been talk of expanding the path all the way to the Newton YMCA in the future when funding becomes available.
NMC has been developing a garden, which includes both flowers and vegetables.
"One of our employees planted a 10-acre wildflower garden, which we hope will become a butterfly refuge for the monarch migration," Gleason said. "That’s been heavily planted with milkweed and other things that promote monarchs. … One of our physicians put in a pollenator-bee hive system to promote wildflowers. He’s already been harvesting honey out of that, which we see as a positive. One of our employees is trying to get a no-till natural vegetable garden out there."
The development was assisted by grants from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas, Healthy Pathways, the Harvey County Health Department, the Harvey County Medical Society as well as "a number of private donors, including our hospital employees and managers who have seen the value of promoting people out there on our campus when they’re not sick," Gleason said.
"The whole point of the Healthy Lifestyle Campus is it’s an asset for the entire community," said NMC director of marketing and communication Shelly Conrady. "It’s a way to develop healthy habits, whether its walking, reconnecting with others, fishing or other family activities. We’re hoping our first crop comes in with our giving garden with the intent to put those with need in the community with some fresh produce in a month or so."