'Green' Restroom a Prototype in Michigan
When nature calls, campers at Michigan's Grand Haven State Park can now go "green" at a new, environmentally friendly toilet-shower building that is the first of its kind in the state park system.
Construction on a similar facility at Otsego Lake State Park near Gaylord is scheduled to begin this fall, according to the Associated Press.
Officials hope to eventually replace all the restrooms at Michigan's 97 state parks and recreation areas with buildings like the one in Grand Haven, which opened for use May 5.
"This is the first of its kind, so we kind of get to be the ones to test it out," says Patrick Whalen, supervisor of Grand Haven State Park.
The water- and energy-efficient product, designed by Grand Rapids-based Integrated Architecture LLC, features natural daytime lighting, artificial nighttime lighting triggered by occupancy detectors, timer-controlled showers with on-demand water heaters and reduced-flow shower heads, and low-flow toilets and urinals.
A small array of solar panels on the roof supplements the electricity used for the building's ventilation system. Building materials, including masonry, metal and wood, were selected for their long-term maintenance qualities. A new sanitary sewer line should mean a safer watershed.
The campground closed a couple of months early last year, right after Labor Day, to give work crews time to demolish the previous, half-century-old toilet-shower building and start on its replacement. The park features a large, sandy beach alongside Lake Michigan, so construction workers battled the wind and the sand and wintry conditions to complete the project on time.
"It was a challenging winter for them, to say the least, to work in the environment that we have here," says Whalen.
According to the AP, the $750,000 cost of the new toilet-shower building – including tearing down its predecessor, installing utility upgrades and winter construction – was paid for by a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant and a matching grant from the state Park Improvement Fund.
The state fund consists of money collected at Michigan state parks for motor vehicle permits, camping fees and concessions. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Parks and Recreation Division operates the park system.
The new campground buildings are part of the DNR's Green Initiatives program, which promotes environmentally friendly management practices and product usage at state parks, state recreation areas and state harbors. Other initiatives now in place or previously tested include cutting back on mowing at certain locations, increasing recycling efforts and using biodiesel fuel in diesel-powered mowers, tractors, bulldozers and backhoes.
The idea for updating the parks' toilet-showers arose as the state was planning to build a new one at Traverse City State Park that opened at the start of the 2007 camping season, says Dan Lord, development planner for Parks and Recreation.
Plans were drawn up last year for a more environmentally friendly toilet-shower building at Grand Haven State Park that could accommodate the approximately 92,500 campers who stay there each year.