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Recreational Trail, Growers Market Offer Healthy Choices

Posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Mike and Jerri Toumbs and their dog, Bevis, walk
along the half-mile loop trail east of the hospital.
At back is the growers market where fruits and
vegetables will be sold beginning in mid-March.


One of the community's healthiest corners is located outside the walls of Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic.

Legacy Park on hospital grounds features a recreational trail and a growers market.

The object, project leaders say, is for patients and the general public to use the trail to improve their physical fitness, and to use the market to build themselves a healthy diet around fresh fruits and vegetables.

The mission is off to a good start. More than 650 citizens visited the complex on opening day, March 21. Since then the trail has continued to attract new walkers, cyclers, roller skaters, and wheelchair users.

The growers market sold 20,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in its first season and is well into planning year two. Numerous fitness, nutrition, and volunteer programs are underway daily inside the market building.

Inquiries about the market and other programs are handled by Eyvonna Lemons, director of the Love County Senior Volunteer Program, which has offices in the building. The phone number is (580) 276-9410.

"Legacy Park has been well received. We see people on the recreational trail nearly every day, and the growers market was well utilized in the summer and fall," said Richard Barker, hospital CEO and administrator.

Hospital, clinic, and EMS employees formed a walking team last fall, and the trail plays an important role in the institution's "healthification" program, according to Megan Yow, RN, the team leader.

Marietta High School's state champion boys and girls cross country teams use the trail from time-to-time for training purposes. Coach Matt Appelman said the public can see the athletes in competition on the site in the fall. "We will be scheduling meets there that utilize the trail and the field beyond," Appelman said.

The recreational trail is 10 feet wide with an asphalt surface. It forms a gently-rolling, one-half mile loop that begins and ends at the shared parking area for the park and growers market at 466 Legacy Park Lane, one block east of the hospital.

Restrooms and water fountains for the park are located outside the north end of the market building.

A picnic table and bench are installed at the halfway point on the recreational trail.

Since opening day, the trail infield has been sodded, and electrical outlets for future lighting have been placed underground. A water well is being dug to fill irrigation trucks in preparation for the future purchase and upkeep of shade trees around the trail's circumference.

On a balmy day in December, Jerri and Mike Toumbs were circling the trail with their dog, Bevis. The retired couple said they drive from their home south of Marietta specifically to walk the trail.

"I like that it is a measured half-mile around. We do two laps," said Jerri. Mike said he is walking for improved heart health and control of diabetes. The couple said they moved from Chandler two years ago to be near the lake area and learned about the trail and market through the newspaper and from friends.

The growers market is a 4,200 square foot building with garage doors on three sides and 2,400 square feet of awning on the south side. Since opening day in March, a 16 foot x 30 foot storage building has been added on the east side, and additional land clearing has taken place to expand access and parking.

Last summer and fall a total of 11 Love County growers gathered indoors and outdoors, depending on the weather, to sell melons, peas, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, onions, corn, eggplants, and eggs.

"They are expecting to add broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce this spring. From the growers' point of view, they are very enthusiastic with having a permanent site to sell. They know if they raise it, they have a place to come and there will be a big turnout of people to purchase from them," Lemons said.

Lemons said prospective farmers and backyard gardeners alike are welcome to contact her about booth space for their output. There is no charge to growers. She said this year's selling season is expected to begin mid-March, with outdoor signage on Memorial Drive and Wanda Street advertising the open days and hours each week.

The large growers market building bustles with activity throughout the year thanks to the senior volunteers and other community organizations.

A new round of exercise classes organized by Randi McCann of OSU Extension will start in February. Tai chi, yoga, and a walking program will be offered day and night, Lemons said. The classes are free and open to the public of all ages.

A newly-installed overhead projector system and distance learning system will lend support to the exercise class instructors.

"Now that we have the equipment, we are also planning movie nights and educational classes. We're considering a dinner-movie for just a few dollars, classes on Spanish, English, writing skills, and films on travel and the cultures of other countries," Lemons said.

Volunteers gather throughout the month at the growers market to package food for three nutritional programs of benefit to the needy of Love County.

The USDA commodities program is currently serving 100 qualified participants. The program is limited to clients age 60 or older with income less than 130% of the current poverty rate. Participants pick up 30 pounds of canned and packaged foods on the second Friday of the month. Lemons said volunteers are needed to help with registration and packing.

On the fourth Friday, 170 homebound seniors have delivery of fruit and a senior food package. The program is limited to clients age 60 or older who have problems with transportation or other circumstances that limit their ability to obtain nutritious food. Lemons said volunteers are needed to help with deliveries, especially to the west end of Love County.

Every Friday, the backpack program for children who need food to make through the weekend puts together a delivery bound for a county school.

The senior volunteer awards banquet and a health fair were held in the growers market last year.