A lone porta potty will join the stately homes along south Ridge Avenue next month, when Ridgeville Park District will install the temporary facility in its Community House yard at 908 Seward St. By a 3-1 vote, the Ridgeville Park District Board decided to have one porta potty for two months, with the possibility of adding porta potties at parks with basketball courts, said board member Patrick McCourt. His was the sole “no” vote.
Mr. McCourt told the RoundTable he has no objection to porta potties at special events such as Bike the Ridge but does not support them on a longer-term basis. “They are unsightly, temporary devices, meant to be there for 24 hours,” he said. They can be attractive nuisances, tempting kids to knock them over or scrawl graffiti on the sides. Mr. McCourt also noted that the City of Evanston does not have porta potties in any of its parks, nor does School District 65, whose playgrounds are public parks after school. He also said the board had received “15-20 emails from neighbors opposing the porta potties” and that about 30 residents had attended an earlier board meeting, where porta potties in the parks were discussed, to state their opposition to them.
One reason for Ridgeville Park District to have porta potties is for the adult basketball players who spend several hours in the park. Mr. McCourt said, however, he thinks the parks should not be over-used by adults. “Our courts are not meant for extended play. If adults play for four to five hours, when do the kids play?” Further, he said, kids who use the park should be able to walk home to use the bathroom.
“Ridgeville is a lot more than facilities in the park,” Mr. McCourt said. “We should focus on what we are supposed to do – provide play for everybody, not for one group over another group.”
Anne Covode, a Ridgeville board member who voted in favor of the trial porta potty, said the temporary facility will serve more than basketball players. She acknowledged that there was “some resistance from neighbors” but said, “I see a need for it. We have a lot of people who can use it – people who attend the free Shakespeare-in-the-park programs. Bathrooms in the Community House are not accessible or convenient – upstairs and in the kitchen.”
Ms. Covode said her main concern about the porta potties was that they would be available 24/7. “It was a safety issue,” she said. The basketball hoops in Ridgeville parks are taken down every night at 9 p.m., and the porta potty will be locked then, too, said Mr. McCourt.
Ridgeville Park Board President Michael Drennan, who voted in favor of the porta potty, said his vote was in favor of exploring the options of services offered to Ridgeville residents. “Part of that means finding what level of interest exists for that service. One portable toilet will help us understand [that]. People have been coming to our parks without these facilities. We hope to give them an accessible public toilet that is environmentally safe and safe for the public as well.”
“It’s not a long-term solution,” said Ms. Covode. “The long-term solution is permanent restroom facilities.”
Ridgeville Park District is one of two independent park districts in Evanston. The other, Lighthouse Park District, owns and maintains land near the Grosse Point lighthouse. The City of Evanston operates and maintains 76 parks but does not have a separate park district.