CHATHAM – Before portable toilets were placed along the sidewalk at the Lighthouse Beach Overlook, the most difficult part of David Eldredge's job as manager of the adjacent Chatham Beach and Tennis Club was the “constant stream of people” asking to use the restrooms at the private club.
With three portable toilets in place at the overlook from spring until late November, he still gets the requests, sometimes in the summer, but more often during the off-season. Now, as a member of the park and recreation commission, he thinks it's time that the town take a look at permanent public restrooms at the popular spot.
As a temporary measure, the commission last week asked Park Director Dan Tobin to look into keeping at least one portable toilet at the overlook in the off-season. Tobin said he'd look into moving a portable toilet that's kept at the Ryder's Cove town landing year-round, but is used little in the off-season, to the overlook.
Permanent restrooms at the Lighthouse Beach Overlook are another matter. Facilities would have to meet Americans With Disability Act requirements and probably have to be connect to town sewer, which is not yet available in the area, and probably won't be for at least 10 years, according to Director of Health and Natural Robert Duncanson.
The need for restrooms at the location year-round has been growing, said Eldredge. Four years ago when the club was having a new deck built, there was a line of people waiting at a portable toilet that had been placed on the lawn for workers.
“It's such a prime spot, and it's definitely gotten busier year-round,” he said, especially on weekends, when the parking lot is often full. “It's probably the most high profile spot in town, and there's no place for anyone to use a restroom.”
Commission member Meredith Fry said she's also been approached by residents asking that there be restroom facilities at Lighthouse Beach year-round.
“I think this is important to pursue,” she said at last week's commission meeting.
For now the temporary restrooms, which have been in place since 2007, will have to suffice. A few years ago the town built a shelter for the portable toilets that are placed at the southeast corner of the overlook, just south of the stairs, from April or May until late November. In the summer, Lighthouse Beach is one of the town's most popular beaches, and in recent years has attracted not only beachgoers but many people who hope to catch a glimpse of a great white shark.
One concern about keeping a portable toilet at the overlook year-round is the cost, said Tobin. A few years ago the state mandated that portable toilet service be covered under the state prevailing wage law, and the cost jumped from about $12,000 to $68,000 a year, he said.
“It's become very expensive,” he said. The town maintains a number of portable restrooms during the summer but just two year-round: at Ryder's Cove and the Barn Hill town landing, both of which are used by fishermen and shellfishmen throughout the year, said Tobin. Several years ago, funding for all portable toilet service was placed under the park department, which maintains the majority of the facilities in town.
Because they are so heavily used, the Lighthouse Beach portable toilets are pumped seven days a week. This time of year, once a week would probably suffice, Tobin said.
He agreed to look into relocating the portable toilet at Ryder's Cove or getting another to place at the Lighthouse Overlook during the off-season and report back to the commission at its next meeting.