Lonesome Pine Hospital Community Fund Grant For Big Stone Gap Park To Enhance Recreation, Improve Health

Bullitt Park donationA shared commitment to better health has resulted in a $200,000 grant from the Lonesome Pine Hospital Community Fund to the Town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, for enhancements to Bullitt Park.

The money will enable the town to add two tree houses in the playground adjacent to the football field. These tree houses will be accessible to children and adults of all ages and abilities via walkways that connect them and gradually let them ascend from and descend to the ground. With this financial assistance, the town will also build an entrance pavilion that leads to the tree houses.

Other beneficial changes to the park will be installation of miscellaneous playground equipment and sidewalk improvements.

"We're thrilled to partner with the town to provide recreational opportunities that will not only elevate the quality of life in Big Stone Gap but also benefit the health of everyone who uses this area of the park," said Ed Roop, the community fund's chairman and a member of the hospital's board of directors. "This donation illustrates how our hospital is focused not only on delivering high-quality, compassionate care to our patients when they need our services but ensuring everyone in the community is healthy."

Roop presented a check to town leaders during a news conference Tuesday, June 24, at the park.

Town Manager Pat Murphy said the plan is to start construction on the tree houses, which can hold a total of about 85 people, in the next 60 days. Mayor Nancy Bailey, who sits on the boards of the community fund and the hospital, said she is excited to see the project move forward.

"We greatly appreciate the community fund, the hospital and Wellmont Health System for investing in Bullitt Park," Bailey said. "One of my biggest dreams has been to see our well-loved park receive the updates it needs, and we're excited to kick off the renovations with this substantial donation. The park is a cherished part of Big Stone Gap and a well-regarded facility in the region, so this is a worthwhile endeavor."

Bailey said Bullitt, which has been open since 1935, is the most frequently used park in Wise County and attracts people from adjacent communities as well. She said it is common to see multiple school buses at the park.

The modifications to Bullitt supported by the community fund are part of a broader plan adopted by Big Stone Gap. The town developed a master plan in 2009 that addressed parks, greenways and cultural facilities.

Future adjustments to the park, presented in drawings by David Hill Studio, might include a shaded picnic terrace, an amphitheater, a water spray, sensory gardens and a fun play area called the dinosaur dig.

Bailey said the park's new look is inspired by Darrell's Dream, a boundless playground at Warrior's Path State Park in Kingsport. Murphy and representatives of David Hill traveled to the park to develop ideas that could be applied to Bullitt.

"It's an ambitious but appropriate goal to ensure everyone can enjoy the outdoors and benefit from exercise," Bailey said. "With the hospital, community fund and Wellmont looking forward on this project, we will achieve our mission for this project. And that makes me ecstatic."

The planned additions to the park also align perfectly with Wellmont LiveWell, a free online initiative backed by multiple companies in the region that encourages people to transform their lives by making at least one small change. These include exercising regularly; eating healthy; maintaining proper blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and not smoking.

Roop said the community fund and hospital board are eagerly awaiting the day when the initial project has been completed and people start using the tree houses and new playground equipment.

"Our hospital was born through the support of people in the community, and we are grateful we can give something back that will affect everyone's health in such an innovative way," said Skip Skinner, chairman of the hospital's board of directors. "Bullitt Park is a real treasure, and it is a great honor for us to provide resources to spur such a meaningful project toward completion."