Cowell Cancer Center And Kids Creek – A Natural Partnership

For the last several years, Munson Medical Center has had a special relationship with the creek that meanders through its campus – a creek that is on the Michigan Impaired Waters List because of stormwater runoff.

“A couple years ago we started working with Munson with the specific goal of reducing stormwater impacts to the creek and eventually getting it removed from that list,” explained Sarah U’Ren of The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay.

Its latest effort is in concert with development of the new $45 million Cowell Family Cancer Center now under construction on Beaumont Avenue and slated to open in the spring of 2016.

Steve Tongue, vice president, facilities/support services at Munson, emphasizes how much of an impact a campus such as Munson – with a lot of impervious structures (parking lots, roofs) – has on stormwater runoff.

Armed with a stormwater management plan, Munson has worked with both The Watershed Center and the Grand Traverse Conservation District to reduce stormwater inputs for various sites around the campus. A partnership that has qualified for funding through both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Cowell Cancer Center is the first opportunity to put the plan into play for a major construction site. It includes underground infiltration trenches, a green roof, a rain garden and pervious pavement – all designed to capture, filter and gradually disperse stormwater rather than having it pour into the creek with surface pollutants it has collected along the way.

Cancer4“We want to be thoughtful about design and doing it up front is cheaper that fixing things after they’re built,” said Tongue of the stormwater plan.

It also is able to test some of the green infrastructure along the way. He referenced a section of pervious pavement put in behind Sixth Street Drug as part of that reconstruction project as one experiment. It has worked as expected and now the pavement is being incorporated into the cancer center project.

A green roof will be established along the front of the cancer center with vegetation and pathways for patients to enjoy while at the facility for treatment or other services.

It will also “visually connect” the building to the creek running across the street, Tongue explained, a connection that was very purposeful in design.

When Munson representatives visited cancer centers around the country during the pre-planning stages, Tongue said, the one thing everyone agreed on was the incorporation of the outside, natural world into whatever was built.

“Every single one said you have to build nature into the project,” Tongue said. “That is the one definite factor in creating a healing environment. So Kids Creek became the anchor of the project … so we are improving the health of the creek and the health of the community.”