Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 17, 2013

System to heat, cool barns in Traverse City to be unveiled

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A new geothermal well system designed to heat and cool the Cathedral Barn at Historic Barns Park will be shown off today.

It is the first Energy Farm project of what supporters hope will be several at the 56-acre urban park, which is being developed on old state hospital farmland at the Grand Traverse Commons. It won’t be completed until next year.

Requests for bids on completing the mechanical aspects of the geothermal system won’t be released until fall or in early spring, said Matt Cowall, executive director of the joint Traverse City/Garfield Township Recreational Authority that oversees the three-year $1.5 million park development.

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and will include a brief overview of geothermal technology and the system design, as well as a question-and-answer session. Guided tours of the grounds also will be available.

Funding for the geothermal system includes a $40,000 grant from Consumers Electric, $22,000 from Cherryland Electric Cooperative and additional contributions from Traverse City Light & Power. The system runs directly under restored farmland and takes advantage of moderate underground temperatures to help cool the nearby 5,000-square-foot Cathedral Barn in summer and heat it in the winter.

Once the Cathedral Barn is restored, the recreational authority plans to use it for outdoor concerts in the natural amphitheater, farmers markets, weddings and community events. The barn also will be equipped with a fire suppression system, restrooms, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, which will make it available for three-season use.

“Savings in energy use and costs will help keep the barns sustainable as a community resource,” said Ross Biederman, recreational authority chairman,

The park also will include space for agriculture, horticulture, recreation, and education and community events.

Capital improvements to the park depend on grants and fundraising, Cowall said. All donations currently are being matched by an unidentified donor, who will double every dollar, up to $200,000, pledged to Historic Barns Park and Botanic Garden campaign.

Donations can be made through the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation at (231) 935-4066, or

“We’re getting close to matching it” Cowall said. “Until we do, everything is doubled.”

Cowall said the first phase of the Botanic Gardens already has started and construction of its visitor center will wrap within a week or so.

“It has been an amazing year,” Cowall said.