UAMS Delta AHEC/Helena Health Foundation Walking Track Named for U.S. Sen. Lincoln

By Liz Caldwell

The Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln Walking Track cost $211,000 and was built with funds from several sources, including $141,000 from the Helena Health Foundation. The naming was kept secret from Lincoln until the sign bearing her name was unveiled at Sunday’s ceremony.

Becky Hall, director of the Delta AHEC, said the idea for an outdoor walking track received strong support during community focus group meetings.

“People told us they wanted a place to go that was safe for walking and for children to play,” Hall said. “This has been at the top of our to-do list for a long time.”

To accommodate the community’s wishes, the 8-foot-wide walking track is surrounded by a decorative security fence, and it includes a playground. A one-time $5 fee gives users security card access from dawn to dusk. 

Weeks before Sunday’s official opening, the track, which includes two quarter-mile sections, was already in demand by the community. The new track was the impetus for a running club made up of 50 elementary-school-age girls, called Girls Just Gotta Run, which comes to the track twice a week. The track also is being used by the local KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter school for physical education.

“It’s beautiful,” Hall said. “I can see the playground from my office window, and I can see kids swinging and hear them laughing and playing. It’s wonderful.”

Lincoln and the Helena Health Foundation were instrumental in securing the money for the $4 million facility that now houses the Delta AHEC and Dr. Vasudevan Wellness Center, which opened in 2006.

“Senator Lincoln’s assistance was invaluable once the decision was made by the Helena Health Foundation to seek a federal loan guarantee to help pay for the new AHEC building,” Hall said.

Donna Rice, executive assistant for the Helena Health Foundation, also said that Lincoln is a native of Helena-West Helena and has assisted the community with other projects.

“We wanted to honor Sen. Lincoln for her support of Helena, and we think that naming the walking trail for her is a natural fit,” Rice said.

In addition to a playground, the seven-acre track complex includes a pavilion with picnic tables and five fitness stations around the track. Future plans include a small water feature in the middle.

The nonprofit Helena Health Foundation was organized in March of 2002 to support and improve the public well-being and quality of life in Phillips County, especially in health care matters. The foundation provides leadership in identifying and addressing community health problems. Since 2006, its primary focus has been its grants program, which recommends grants to address community needs in health care.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a new 540,000-square-foot hospital, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,652 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or