For the first time since it was built in the early 1960s, Matthaei Botanical Gardens will connect to Ann Arbor Township water, providing a number of immediate environmental, economic, customer-service and palate-pleasing benefits.
Along with the township water, new water fountains with bottle-filling stations similar to those on Central Campus will replace the old, inefficient fountains, and all bathroom fixtures will be upgraded. Additionally, three new fire hydrants will provide protection to the historic building, greenhouses and conservatory. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of November.
Among the most notable advantages of the new system is less use of water, says Matthaei-Nichols Associate Director Karen Sikkenga.
“The new fixtures will reduce our environmental impact by significantly lowering the volume of water the facilities use,” she notes. “And we’ll reduce our overall use of chemicals. Currently we run all our water — both for plants and people — through a reverse osmosis system that uses chemicals to neutralize the water.”
Over time the chemicals and the hard water have taken their toll on the fixtures, further degrading the efficiency of the old system.
A cost-benefit analysis revealed that the increasingly frequent repairs to the antiquated system would cost more over time than the one-time cost of connecting to the township along with the new fixtures.
Without the connection to township water the Matthaei lift station, which lifts wastewater from the building up to Dixboro Road, would have required a costly upgrade. “With the new system the existing lift station will be able to accommodate the lower volume of water use,” Sikkenga says.
Municipal water provides a much-needed customer service, too, adds Sikkenga.
“The township water will taste better and make it easier to keep our fixtures, floors and windows clean. And we won’t need to sell bottled water. Instead, we’ll offer low-cost refillable water bottles, which can be filled at the bottle dispensers in the new drinking fountains,” she says.
A 1957 gift of 200 acres from Regent Frederick Matthaei Sr. and his wife, Mildred Hague Matthaei, made Matthaei Botanical Gardens a reality. The conservatory and buildings at Matthaei were designed by architect Alden B. Dow. The gardens were officially dedicated in 1962 and renamed Matthaei Botanical Gardens in 1967.
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