By Dedra Cordle
The village of Urbancrest council will look into the feasibility of installing additional amenities at one of its parks after residents expressed concerns about the lack of public access to bathrooms.
At its meeting in May, councilman Steven Larkins said he has received a number of complaints from residents regarding bathroom facilities, or the lack thereof, at Martin Luther King Park and Mayors Park Pavilion.
According to Larkins, the concerns fell into three categories; the first were from those who wished for the bathroom facility at Martin Luther King Park to be opened; the second were from those who wished for a facility to be installed at Mayors Park Pavilion; and the third was from those who just wanted people to stop using the grounds as a bathroom.
“Is there something we can do about (all of) this?” he asked.
The problem with installing a bathroom facility at Mayors Park Pavilion, said Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr., is two-fold.
“Installing a permanent facility is very expensive,” he said. “Running the water lines and the sewer lines to that area is expensive and the construction of the building itself is expensive.”
In addition to the cost, which can run anywhere between $50,000 to $1.4 million, he said housing a facility there could make the location more attractive to those who occasionally make the grounds their nighttime home.
“We have people living in the grass when the weather breaks and do we not want people, or more people, living in the park.”
Barnes said he is open to the idea of placing a temporary bathroom facility near the shelter house but that too comes with its own issues.
“It would have to be something that is locked when the office closes,” he said. “We can’t have facilities open 24/7.”
In regard to the public bathroom facility at Martin Luther King Park, Barnes said that will likely be open to the public in the summer, especially as people rent the shelter house there for family gatherings. However, he said that facility has its own concerns, mainly with graffiti and improper usage.
According to the mayor, several teenagers were caught on camera desecrating the building (he noted they cleaned it up after being presented with the footage of their misdeeds) and groundcrews have often found illegal paraphernalia around the facility.
He said that when it is open to the public, it cannot be used all day and all night.
The council members said they too wanted the public to be able to access bathrooms while visiting their parks but agreed that several matters must be looked into before opening one or adding another.
“It will be on the health and safety committee agenda soon,” said councilwoman Deborah Larkins-Jackson.
In addition to the possible installation of a bathroom facility at Mayors Park Pavilion, the committee will also look into Barnes’s suggestion that those who rent the shelter house at Martin Luther King Park be assessed a rental fee for use of the bathroom facility.
“That way it can give some accountability if there is any destruction to the facility on the inside,” he said.