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  • Bangor Daily News

    Locals applauded Bangor’s public bathroom plan — then couldn’t agree where to put them

    By Kathleen O'Brien,


    When Christina Paradis of Bangor brings her 2-year-old son to Hayford Park, she travels with a plastic portable toilet because she knows there’s no bathroom available near the playground.

    In fact, most of the city’s many parks don’t have bathrooms.

    This summer, Bangor will install new public bathrooms to address long-standing complaints that the city doesn’t have enough facilities that are open all hours and accessible to everyone. The city originally chose Hayford Park, Chapin Park, Coe Park, Fairmount Park and Broadway Park to receive the bathrooms.

    The locations drew enough pushback from residents that it influenced city staff to pick new sites for the bathrooms, which include Coe Park, the Essex Woods dog park, across the street from the Bangor Public Library, Cascade Park, and on the corner of Broad and Washington streets.

    However, that feedback contradicted the opinions of half a dozen parents the Bangor Daily News spoke to on Friday, who were using some of the originally proposed parks and expressed support for bathrooms in those locations. Those differences highlight a disconnect between the people who were vocal during public forums and those who visit the parks, and the influence the former ultimately had on changing the bathrooms’ locations.

    During public meetings the city held on the proposed locations, many residents argued placing stalls in public parks would draw vandalism and misuse, or people would use them as a place to inject drugs and leave used syringes in areas where children play. Others said Bangor’s parks simply don’t need public bathrooms.
    Broadway Park was one of the proposed locations for a public bathroom. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

    “Ninety percent of the time, kids walk or ride their bikes to the park and if they have to go to the bathroom, they go home,” Adele St. Pierre, who lives next to Fairmount Park, said during one of the public forums.

    In an April 25 letter to city councilors, former city councilor Jonathan Sprague, who lives near Fairmount Park, said Bangor needs more public bathrooms but primarily downtown and along the waterfront.

    “While I was on the council, through many discussions about homelessness and tourism, I heard no expressions of need for public bathrooms other than downtown or on the waterfront,” Sprague wrote. “I never had a constituent ask for more bathrooms in any parks.”

    Several parents and grandparents bringing their children and grandchildren to some of Bangor’s parks on Friday, however, disagreed with Sprague’s argument.

    Christina Early of Winterport, who often takes her 2-year-old grandson to Fairmount Park, wonders what she’ll do when her nearly potty trained grandson stops wearing diapers and suddenly needs to use the bathroom. She believes public bathrooms “would be an asset to city parks,” rather than a magnet for misuse.
    Sebastian Capone pushes his son Leon on a swing at Fairmount Park in Bangor on Friday. Capone, who is visiting from Switzerland, said that all parks there have public bathrooms, although some you have to pay to use. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

    Rachel Martinez of Hermon, who pushed her 2-year-old daughter on the swingset in Hayford Park on Friday, agreed that public bathrooms could get misused and dirty, but “that’s going to happen no matter where you put them.” Regardless, Martinez said having a bathroom available in parks for emergencies would be helpful.

    Though Hayford Park and Fairmount Park aren’t going to receive bathrooms, Cara Pelletier, Bangor City Council chairperson, is pleased with the alternative locations city staff settled on.

    But she was disheartened by the “pointed” letters the council received arguing that people don’t want bathrooms in public parks “because they don’t want homeless people in the parks.”

    Other residents stated bathrooms aren’t necessary in parks because only people who live around the parks use them.
    Brycen Littlefield, 3, zips down a slide at Fairmount Park in Bangor where he was having fun with his father Patrick Littlefield on Friday. Fairmount Park was one of the city’s proposed locations for a public bathroom. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

    “That’s not only inaccurate, it’s inhospitable,” Pelletier said. “There’s also an undercurrent of, to me, ableism. There are lots of reasons why someone might need a bathroom in a park.”

    Pelletier acknowledged that attempts in previous years to offer portable toilets in various locations weren’t successful, as the units were heavily and repeatedly damaged, making them unsafe or impossible to service.

    “The concerns people have about safety and cleanliness are valid, but I don’t think that means we need to give up on the idea forever,” Pelletier said. “If that means I’m going to be wrong, I’m fine with that, but I at least want to try.”

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