Why Park Restrooms?
It is hard to enjoy nature when nature calls and there’s no room for relief in sight. No wonder then that 81 percent of respondents to a recent Palo Alto survey rated adding restrooms to local parks as “important to very important,” making toilets the most coveted new amenity. The Community Survey, which was conducted to inform the new Parks and Recreation master plan, indicated that local residents favored additional park bathrooms over water fountains (71 percent), seating areas (62 percent) or Wi-Fi access (which contrary to Silicon Valley stereotypes, was deemed important by fewer than 20 percent of those who took the survey).
Palo Alto Week, March 31, 2017
About 70% of respondents cited a lack of amenities including bathrooms, adequate lighting or signage as an issue. And 94% of respondents said they somewhat prefer or strongly prefer that bathrooms be a focus for park improvements – more than any other suggested improvement.
Spokane Parks Survey
While not documented, there is anecdotal evidence that some people avoid physical activities that put them out of range of toilet facilities. The ETC institute of Kansas conducts surveys to determine what factors affect people’s willingness to use public parks and trails. ETC confirmed that when survey respondents are allowed to pick “public restrooms”, that choice typically rates high. A recent (March to June of 2002) ETC survey conducted for Arlington County Virginia is listed below. The community attitude and interest survey helped determine citizen usage, satisfaction, needs, and priorities for the parks and recreation system. Based on a list of potential improvements that could be made to parks/facilities, respondents were asked which three (3) improvements they would most like to have made to the parks/facilities they use most often, Drinking fountains, followed by year-round restrooms were the top two choices.
Arlington County Parks & Recreation Survey
Yes, page 62 on the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Master Plan from 2009 notes a recommendation to add restrooms to parks where appropriate, and a survey of participants during this planning process noted that when people listed their top 3 most important concerns for the City to address, the choice of More/better restroom facilities was rated #5 out of 21 options.
Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Master Plan Survey
“Restrooms are critical infrastructure,” says Jim O’Connor, assistant general manager of operations at East Bay Reginal Park District.
A hiker, mom with kids, a mountain biker riding a long distance, or a group pf people celebrating a special event might choose a park or open space based on whether or not there is a clean, functional, and open restroom.
Bay Area Monitor
Regardless of the bathroom style, Brubaker argues that parks and rec providers invariably undervalue the presence of comfort stations serving outdoor areas. He cites feedback from ETC institute – a Kansas City-based market research firm that regularly administers surveys on behalf of government organizations – suggesting that parks providers often try to avoid the restroom issue.
“A bicycling organization recently did a survey of about 1,000 people, asking what amenities they’d like to see in their parks,” says Brubaker. “New and better bathrooms ranked number two out of about 40 choices.”
The high priority for new and better bathrooms is typical in such surveys. However, says Brubaker, parks and rec professionals often omit that question from surveys related to parks amenities. “They literally make sure it doesn’t get asked, because they don’t want to hear the answer,” he says. “Also, if you ask people an open-ended question about what they want, they’ll almost never mention bathrooms. But if bathrooms is put into a list of choices, it tends to get a very high ranking.”
Brubaker suggests that parks providers should not view outdoor restroom facilities as necessary evils, but as important elements to an infrastructure that will maximize park usage and rec program participation.
A single-occupant layout solves social distancing issues and provides gender-neutral restrooms simultaneously. A private restroom space is more inclusive to several groups: individuals with disabilities that need assistance, parents with children, or transgender and non-binary individuals. Another benefit is increased security with the ability to lock the door.
Parks and Rec Business
A PARK PLANNER of long experience in the field of State Park work, Mr. Paul V. Brown, writes, “Toilets are the most important structures built in a natural park. If we were to provide only safe water and proper toilets, we would accomplish the essentials of development of these areas. Those who will not lead the field in proper sanitation should get out of it and allow those who are not ashamed to be proud of their toilet buildings to take over.”
National Park Service
These people travel to Grosse Ile just to launch their kayaks at Sunrise Park and provide their feedback on the Sunrise Park Improvement concept.
"As you know, I am a frequent user of the park. I think that a restroom would be a wonderful idea. It would be very convenient and would receive at least weekly use for most of the year. In the summer months, I almost always see people using the park whether they are walking or sitting on the bench enjoying the view. " - Mike R.
"The concept pic looks really nice. I agree with Mike on the desirability of a restroom, even a porta-potty, in the park. We always see people there, especially in the “nicer” months, including quite a few people with children. It would enhance everyone’s experience if there were a decent place to relieve oneself there." -Kathy B.
"Bathrooms would be great there. I also agree that a lot of people use the park, it's crowded most summer weekends I have gone. It would also be cool to add a design into the deck replicating the railroad tracks that ran through there. It could add a bit of history. " - George V.
"I use the park and have seen others there. Bikers stop by and runners, I've even seen a sunbather reading a book. As well as families with children having lunch. I'm just a visitor to Grosse Ile but the park has beautiful views of the river. Not all residents have that river front view and I think many residents can enjoy the improvements." - Kathy E.
"Agree with everyone else — bathrooms would be practical and healthy upgrades to the park. Would it help if we submitted written comments?" - Todd N.