Katy Memorial Herman Hospital

Posted by Ryan Spates in S&S Project Gallery on Mar. 25, 2010 - 12:23 pm

Several months ago S&S Trails was contacted by Terri DeLoach, the Director of Customer Experience Management at Katy Memorial Hermann hospital, to explore the possibilities for installing a crushed granite walking path for staff and employees to use. Every year the hospital sponsors an employee contribution campaign to add features that improve the environment for staff and patients alike. For example, a past project created an outdoor seating area and healing garden, complete with a beautiful rock enclosed fountain that provides a calming place for people to sit and visit or meditate. When Terri searched for Texas trail builders on the internet she found our webpage and decided that she liked what she saw and that we were relatively local, so she decided to give us a call. (Incidentally this is the first confirmed contract that we have received solely from the existence of our webpage and not from word-of-mouth advertising or a personal referral. Thanks Megan and Marty for doing such a great job with our online marketing!)

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Several hospital employees enjoyed walking on their meal breaks to get some exercise and be outdoors for a while before returning to work. However the only place to walk was in the employee parking lot, which was not the best experience that one could wish for. Fortunately there was a large field with an excavated detention pond adjacent to the hospital on the property, and the directors of the employee contribution program thought this would be a nice venue to provide a walking path for employees that would be somewhat of an ‘escape into nature’ away from the parking lot. In spite of the fact that the hospital is located directly on the feeder road at I-10 and the Grand Parkway and sees a huge amount of traffic, the detention pond provides nice habitat for turtles and several species of water birds. There are also several red-winged blackbirds that live in the area, and even a hawk that regularly hunts in the field next to the pond. Therefore providing people a delineated path to get to and around this water feature and encourage exercise in the process was a huge goal for the hospital administrators.

Last October we scouted the property to estimate how long the trail would be so we could plan for how much stone material to buy. In addition to Terri, Tom Brunette from the Facilities Engineering Department was involved in the project and walked the proposed alignment with us. Due to the fact that the detention pond had been excavated and was a factor in storm water runoff, the Harris County Flood Control District had to become involved to issue permits to build the trail, including one for a small bridge to cross a concrete drainage area on one end of the pond. Although we’re not certified hydrology engineers ourselves, we do know a lot about how water affects dirt, and we noticed that two of the concrete drainages appeared to be constructed in a counter-intuitive manner. Basically instead of allowing water to naturally drain by sheet flow over land down to the pond, which was the lowest point in the landscape, whoever originally excavated the site dug swales around the pond to force water into storm drains that were then supposed to drain under the berm that was built up around the pond.

When we arrived five months later to begin construction, we found that the volume of water channeled into the drains had undercut the concrete and bored out a huge sinkhole-like cavern under the berm where the trail was supposed to be built. This created a structurally unsound area about 50 feet long right in the middle of the only place that we could build the trail. Needless to say we were concerned and immediately told Terri and Tom so they could see for themselves and we could all strategize for the best way to proceed. Tom said that he would get the construction crew that now maintained the property to re-grade the area while we worked on the other parts of the trail. We all agreed on that plan and started construction right away.

Bad weather, rental equipment problems, labor trouble, and inaccurate materials estimates from the stone company were only some of the challenges faced on the project. The other construction company also didn’t show up during the two weeks we had allotted for the project, so we were unable to complete the section that needed to be re-graded before we had to leave for another project. Fortunately about 3 weeks later we had a day open up in our busy schedule when we could return to finish the job, so that’s what we did. We did have one interesting opportunity that we’ve not had on any other job, and that was a chance to take an overhead photo of the entire trail. We were escorted by security to the roof of the hospital, where Susan was able to take a picture that showed the entire trail around the pond. Future plans of the hospital committee include the addition of picnic tables, shade structures, and exercise equipment to turn the trail into an integrated outdoor fitness facility. We wish them well in these endeavors.