Sky Lakes Medical Center is giving a $1.5 million "birthday gift" to the community. The hospital announced Friday that as part of its 50th anniversary, it would make donations to several community projects.
In addition to the $600,000 Sky Lakes has already pledged to the community health transformation initiative, the Blue Zones Project, it will also make investments in the Ella Redkey Pool, Kit Carson Park, downtown Klamath Falls green spaces, and make a donation to the Klamath Trails Alliance.
"It's our gift to the community," said Sky Lakes spokesman Tom Hottman. "It's our way of saying thank you to the community for support for 50 years."
The hospital opened in October 1965 as the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital thanks to a community-wide effort, Hottman explained.
"This acknowledges, in another way, our gratitude for that work as well," he said of the gift.
In a letter announcing the gifts, Sky Lakes CEO Paul Stewart said the funds would be spread out over four years "to help improve the health of people in the community and enhance many neighborhoods."
"Sky Lakes leadership believes our organization must be a social asset and a source of economic strength as well as a leader in health care," Stewart wrote. "We see it as our civic obligation to our community to demonstrate excellence and responsible corporate citizenship in ways that will help make a positive difference, that will be enduring, that are inclusive, and that will encourage."
Several of the projects Sky Lakes' gift will help fund are in partnership with the city of Klamath Falls. City manager Nathan Cherpeski said he is looking forward to that partnership.
"It's a significant contribution," Cherpeski said. "We're looking forward to doing good things with them."
In his letter, Stewart stressed the importance of teamwork.
"Teamwork is essential to our success — the need is too great to be met by any one organization or company or agency — and Sky Lakes will continue to work with other community leaders to improve the well-being of the people we are honored to serve," Stewart wrote. "I believe the Sky Lakes anniversary gifts to our community are an investment in our collective future. These contributions will help all of us — when we work together as a community — to do more and to make things even better."
About the projects
In his letter, Stewart detailed what each of the donations would help fund.
Starting this summer at Ella Redkey, the hospital will fund swimming lessons for third grade students as part of a four-year commitment.
The funding will also help the city of Klamath Falls make improvements at the pool such as converting an area adjacent to the main pool, once used as a wading pool, into a "splash pad," the letter said.
"We believe that providing opportunities at the pool for younger children will make the facility more attractive to even more families, and will contribute to a lifelong habit of physical activity," Stewart said in the letter.
Sky Lakes is also making a donation to Klamath Trails Alliance to support the organization's plans to develop a trail all the way around Upper Klamath Lake, which "I think will be a great opportunity for people to take advantage of the beautiful outdoors that we've got here," Stewart wrote.
For Kit Carson, Sky Lakes will partner with the city of Klamath Falls to "enhance and beautify" the park.
"There are several reasons for this gift: We want to see it again as the neighborhood asset it once was by installing walking paths to encourage people to get out and be active, and there will be a bark park so that people and their dogs can have a nice area to play and socialize," Stewart's letter said. "The investments also include putting in natural landscaping and play structures that are more natural than traditional apparatus to provide safe opportunities for kids to be active."
The renovations will also include a bicycle "pump track," or a continuous loop of dirt berms and smooth dirt mounds that you ride without pedaling; instead, riders use a pumping motion of their upper and lower body to move forward and maintain speed and momentum.
"We believe these enhancements will make the area inviting to a wide range of ages and that will encourage more use and more physical activity," Stewart wrote.
Also as part of the project, the city will connect the park's sprinkler system to well water so properly maintaining the grass will no longer depend on irrigation water, the letter continued.
This will help ensure the park, which is along Crater Lake Parkway, is visually appealing and attractive even during dry periods, Stewart noted. Crater Lake Parkway is the main route into Klamath Falls from the north and is seen by tourists and visitors as they drive in, he said.
Stewart hopes the enhancement project will be complete by June 2016.
Sky Lakes' investment also includes the development of a park in the downtown corridor, which will continue the revitalization of the downtown, help existing businesses and aid in recruiting new commerce, Stewart's letter said.
"Having an abundance of green space improves the impression a community leaves on visitors and sends the clear message that we value the benefits it brings naturally," Stewart wrote.
"When you put in a park downtown, you're saying green space is important, that we're willing to invest, and we're willing to make a place where people can go during their lunch or outside of work," Sky Lakes Board Chairman John Bell is quoted in the letter. "It sends an important message saying 'This is what is important to our community, and it's a vibrant community.' "
Photo: Klamath Falls City Manger Nathan Cherpeski, center, and John Bellon, city Parks Director, present Paul Stewart, right, with an architect's drawing from 1953 of the city pool. It was later renamed the Ella Redkey Municipal Swimming Pool.c