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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

August 7, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

MDC staff, clients team up to build new campus walking trail

  • Two-mile trail promotes exercise, healthy living
  • Clients also benefitting from campus garden
  • Montana Developmental Center (MDC) staff and clients are hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, August 9, at 10 a.m. at the Boulder facility to celebrate the completion of a new outdoor walking trail called the Nature Trail.

    The event will also highlight continued success of a new campus garden built in 2012.

    MDC staff and clients spent about four weeks constructing the Nature Trail that covers nearly two miles around the exterior of the campus.

    “This project is right in line with the DPHHS mission of promoting healthy living,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “It also provides for a safer environment for clients while they exercise and is a great use of campus space.”
    To celebrate this accomplishment, staff and clients will form teams and compete in a relay race around the course. Water stations will be set up along the trail for thirsty racers.

    “Clients are really excited about this new addition to our campus,” said MDC Superintendent Gene Haire. “The MDC Client Council decided this is what they wanted for MDC. The Client Council deserves a lot of credit for seeing this project through from beginning to end.”

    Haire said the Client Council is made up of clients from every residential unit who are interested in helping their peers have a voice at MDC.
    To construct the trail, MDC maintenance staff first used heavy equipment to grade and level the surface before spreading about 740 cubic yards of decomposed granite. Clients participated by helping clear rocks and raked out the trail edges. The trail is about 8-feet wide. “This was really a team effort, and everyone is very pleased with the final product,” Haire said.

    Haire said before the Nature Trail was built, clients walked on the sidewalks, or on the campus streets for exercise. However, the Nature Trail provides for a safer environment and for more opportunities to expand in the future with possible exercise stations, a Folf course and benches along the route. The trail will also be used for some clients who spend months training to participate in the MDC annual 5K race as part of their physical therapy rehabilitation.

    Garden continues to grow
    The MDC garden continues to serve as the centerpiece of the facilities’ therapeutic horticulture program. The garden stretches to 120 feet by 40 feet and includes 18 raised garden beds filled with potatoes, squash, strawberries, peas, lettuce, onions and radishes. Plans are in the works to build 18 more raised beds next year.

    One specific success story occurred this past year. According to MDC Vocational Program Supervisor Greg Gerard, one client, who wasn’t interested in other campus employment opportunities before, has become completely engaged and works in the garden a couple hours per day.

    Gerard said the clients’ physical limitations made it difficult to sign up for other campus employment opportunities. However, the garden changed all that, but Gerard did have to get a little creative. He read in a gardening book called Straw Bale Gardens that described how to plant vegetables inside straw bales, substituting the straw for soil. It turns out the straw bales were just the right height for the client to access from his wheelchair.

    So, now a string of straw bales line the back side of the garden, filled with planted potatoes, squash and jalapenos. “This client now is excited about his job, that includes daily weather checks and various watering duties in the garden,” Gerard said. “Just like this garden, this client is growing as a person as well. It’s an awesome thing to see.”

    Haire said these improvements have made a difference at MDC. “The Nature Trail and garden are but two examples of the various improvements that have been made at MDC over the past several years both in our treatment methods and safety enhancements,” Haire said. “These are improvements that we think enhance our ability to treat our clients. Our goal is to transform MDC into a Center of Excellence, and every day we get a little closer.”

    MDC provides treatment to adults with intellectual disabilities who have been determined by a Montana District Court to be a danger to themselves or other people and in need of mandatory clinical and behavioral intervention to address these safety concerns. Comprehensive services are provided by a team of clinical professionals and direct support staff. MDC’s program prepares clients for discharge to appropriate community programs and is a critical component in the continuum of care for persons with developmental disabilities.  

    WHAT: MDC to host ribbon-cutting ceremony for new walking trail, tour campus garden
    WHO:  Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper, Developmental Services Division Administrator Rebecca de Camara, MDC Superintendent Gene Haire
    WHERE: Montana Developmental Center
    310 4th Ave.  
    Boulder, MT
    WHEN: Friday, August 9 at 10 a.m.
    Page last updated 08/07/2013