State grants will fund permanent restrooms at local parks

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 18, 2020

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OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Bear Creek Nature Park and Marsh View Park in Oakland Township will soon get permanent restroom facilities.

After submitting grant applications for two years, the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Commission will receive two Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants totaling $50,000 each for the construction of permanent restrooms at Bear Creek Nature Park and Marsh View Park.

“It’s very exciting, because as we have been adding recreation facilities over the years at our parks, we have not had the financial wherewithal to put in permanent restrooms. We focused more on the other sorts of improvements, like adding parking lots, trails — in the case of Marsh View, our sports field, our archery range  — and we have been making due with portable accessible restrooms for all these years,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mindy Milos Dale.

As the popularity of the two parks has increased, so have the requests from regular park users for the addition of flush restrooms.

“Having permanent flush toilets was pretty high on our residents’ list of things they’d like to see in our parks — and we try to honor those requests as much as we can, (paired with) what we can afford,” said Daniel Simon, the vice chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Milos Dale said the current portable toilets at both parks will be replaced with environmentally sustainable and universally accessible flushable vault toilets, which were originally created by an engineer for the National Park Service to offer low-flush and low maintenance restrooms in remote park locations. Flushable vault restrooms include sinks and look like conventional restrooms from the floor up, but they use 70% less water than conventional restrooms and they do not require a connection to a septic field.

“We have situations in both of these parks where we do not have access to any local sewer system, and on top of that, there is no area in the vicinity of where a restroom really should go to service the public best. There were no good areas for a septic field. These flushable vault toilets are perfect for that sort of situation where we have all these constraints,” Milos Dale said.

Each park will have two unisex toilets. At Bear Creek, they will be across from the existing enclosure for the portable toilets, near the playground picnic pavilion. At Marsh View, they will be just to the east of the enclosure for the portable restrooms, which is also near the concrete pad near the picnic tables.

Milos Dale said the township is always concerned about accessibility, so — as part of the grant process — officials met with a variety of organizations with different types of ability concerns.

“One of the things that came out of those meetings was we are going to have adult changing tables in these restrooms, which are great for whether you have an adult that needs that sort of attention or you have children that need changing. That’s something that’s going to be unique for these restrooms also,” Milos Dale said.

After receiving all necessary permits and approvals, the commission expects to bid out these projects during the coming fall or winter, with construction projected to occur in 2021.

“We still have a ways to go because the state does require that we submit site plans for their approval, so that’s why it won’t be until next year,” said Milos Dale.

Under the grant program, the state will cover 40% of the cost of each project and the township is responsible covering 60%, which is approximately $77,000 for each project. Milos Dale said it would not be possible to apply for the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants without the matching funds provided by Oakland Township residents through the parks and recreation millage.

The Oakland Township parks and recreation millage provides funding for the acquisition, maintenance, operation, improvement and management of township parks, recreation areas, facilities and programs.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provides funding for the acquisition of public lands for resource protection and the development of public outdoor recreation.

“This collaborative effort by Oakland Township is an excellent example of how local governments, trail and park advocates, and state government can work together to accomplish common goals,” Michigan Department of Natural Resources State Trail Coordinator Paul Yauk said in a statement.

For more information, see the grant applications at www.oaklandtownship.org.

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