Family Nature Clubs featured in national publication, based in Central Ohio!April 3, 2009
Cash-strapped state parks look it – Columbus DispatchApril 6, 2009
‘Green’ restrooms to serve governor’s visitors
Monday, April 6, 2009 3:08 AM
By Elizabeth Gibson
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The Governor’s Residence is getting a throne — in fact, four environmentally friendly thrones that flush.
Crews started the public restroom last month; it is the first major construction project on the grounds in 72 years. The last addition to the Bexley property went up before the state took it over in 1955, curator Mary Alice Mairose said.
The goal of adding restrooms to the carriage house at the Governor’s Residence spans administrations, from Gov. Bob Taft’s to Gov. Ted Strickland’s. It was part of an effort by governors’ wives to make the mansion not just a home, but a public resource.
“We have more of a story to tell every time a visitor comes,” facilities manager Julie Stone said. “We don’t want them to spend all their 1 1/2-hour tour waiting for the restrooms.
“If a bus of 55 people came from Cleveland after stopping for lunch, it’s not unusual for a lot of people to need to use the facilities when they get here, and now we only have two.”
Over the past decade volunteers have worked to build gardens demonstrating the plant life in every region of Ohio and to revamp the home as a model of eco-friendly practices.
Most of the improvements have been made with private funds raised by Friends of the Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden, although the $263,000 for the bathrooms came from taxpayers.
Bexley Mayor John Brennan said some neighbors worry the mansion is becoming a tourist attraction in a residential neighborhood, but he said it’s been made clear there are no immediate plans to increase the number of visitors.
About 20,000 guests stop by the mansion at 358 N. Parkview Ave. each year, including 7,000 people who come for tours.
The four restrooms are only one phase of a series of proposed improvements.
A 6,000-square-foot education center is planned near the governor’s greenhouse, although when it goes up depends on fundraising, said Melinda Shah, an architect with Schooley-Caldwell Associates.
She said the education center will have a welcome desk, a classroom and a second-floor exhibit area. The upper level will include a terrace for examining rooftop gardens.
The building was designed to meet environmental standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council and to be built with Ohio-made products, recycled materials and solar panels to heat the water for the new bathrooms, Shah said.
Friends of the Governor’s Residence also is raising money for a geology display, and last week the mansion had its first cooking class, Stone said.
Convicts who work in the gardens helped lay the groundwork for green plumbing last week as part of a program to provide them with marketable skills. Stone said the 300-foot pipe they buried will connect rain spouts to two 1,400-gallon underground cisterns for use in the garden and bathrooms.
The bathrooms are expected to be complete in June, but until then, the grounds already have two additional green toilets: a pair of emerald-colored portable rentals.