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Feature Article - September 2009

Designed For Use-and Abuse

Selecting Restroom Structures to Suit Your Site

By Emily Tipping

Does your site include restrooms? Are they clean? Are they accessible? Or are they poorly maintained because you've had to cut staff? Or closed because you don't have the budget to maintain them?

According to the American Restroom Association, there is some evidence to suggest that some people are less willing to get involved in fitness activities that put them out of range of toilet facilities.

Restrooms in public parks are one of the top requests among citizens. A 2002 Arlington (Va.) County Parks & Recreation Survey suggested that year-round restrooms are second only to drinking fountains when residents were asked about potential improvements to parks and facilities.

The concern about clean and usable restrooms was considered so important in the City of San Francisco, that in 2007 the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond allocated $11.4 million just for restroom improvements and the construction of new restrooms. A survey by the city comptroller's office had found that the top two "Park Elements in Need of Improvement" in the city were restroom availability and restroom location.

A Restroom Task Force was created and its final report was issued in early August, prioritizing a list of restrooms in city parks in need of renovations and repairs, as well as some parks that need new restrooms altogether. (Learn more about the task force's method for determining how to prioritize improvements in the sidebar, "First Things First" on page 26.) If all of the new restrooms and renovations take place, it will mean a total additional projected weekly availability of 765 hours citywide, and possibly a need for just over four additional full-time-equivalent workers to help keep the restrooms clean and in working order.

All of this serves to highlight a top concern among citizens using parks: Restrooms are a necessity. And to ensure people leave your site feeling positive about their experience, a clean, well-maintained restroom is a necessity.

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