Grant Funds Hiking and Biking Trail at Richmond, Va., Home for Chronically Mentally Ill

Providing physical activity programs to adults with chronic mental illness

Gateway Homes of Greater Richmond (Va.) constructed a three-mile hiking and biking trail on its 30-acre campus — a residential living facility for the chronically mentally ill — and purchased eight mountain bicycles, bicycle helmets, water bottles and first-aid kits.

During trail construction, six acres of land were cleared and a roadway was excavated, graded, and covered with 200 tons of gravel. This grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) also provided funds to purchase eight mountain bicycles, bicycle helmets, water bottles, and first-aid kits. The original proposal had called for a five-mile trail but was revised to three miles due to higher-than-anticipated costs. A grant from the John Randolph Foundation allowed Gateway to purchase an additional 12 bicycles.

Since its inception in 1983, Gateway's mission has been to provide an environment in which adults who struggle with chronic mental illness can enhance their quality of life through a continuum of supportive and compassionate care. Gateway's cost-effective, three-tiered program is aimed at decreasing long-term hospitalization and moving residents to a more independent lifestyle.

A frequent and unwelcome side effect of the psychotropic medications residents use to control their symptoms of mental illness is excessive weight gain. This project was part of Gateway's larger commitment to comprehensive physical fitness and nutrition programs.

Key Results

Through aerobics, walking, biking, and nutrition classes, Gateway promotes a healthy lifestyle for its residents. Gateway residents are required to walk or bike the new trail five times a week for one hour under the guidance of a physical activity instructor, and many have lost weight or have been able to maintain a desirable weight as a result.

During the 12 months after the trail was completed:

  • One resident lost 100 pounds and another lost 68 pounds, achievements for which they were honored at a special dinner in December 2001.
  • A local church youth group erected trail and mileage markers, and residents, staff and other local volunteers will maintain the trail.
  • Gateway Homes purchased a storage facility to house the bikes and other equipment.


RWJF provided $50,000 to support the project from November 1999 to January 2001.