Public Restrooms

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.  

Public restrooms are among the most challenging facilities for maintenance staff members; most of the restrooms are heavily used—and often abused—at parks and sports complexes, day and night, week after week, all year long.

While it is natural to focus on sports-field turf, rink surfaces, courts, and special-event venues, equal attention should be allocated to the restrooms that support them, as well as those that serve passive recreation areas. One of the best ways to ensure getting torrid—and justifiable—complaints is to have a dirty, smelly bathroom at a heavily used park or at a special event.

A Look At Paper Products

Making sure paper products are well stocked is a great first step to successful restroom management. There are many effective products

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / kurga

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / kurga

available to ensure ample stock without exposing the products to vandals, such as jumbo-sized, sealed, and locked toilet-tissue holders, or those that hold multiple, rotating rolls.

Paper hand towels are helpful when used and disposed of properly; however, they can also be scattered on the floor, stuffed down toilets, or used to plug up sink drains. There are some hand-towel dispensers that allow only one sheet at a time, which makes it more difficult for would-be vandals.

However, parks and rec pros may find it best to do away with hand towels completely and use hand dryers instead. There was a time when hand dryers were slow and low-powered, and never really dried one’s hands. Today, there are high-powered hand dryers on the market that will seemingly flap the skin back like an astronaut pulling G’s and dry one’s hands in about 10 seconds. These devices get the job done while removing the paper from the hands of potential vandals.

Regardless of how parks and rec maintenance staff members make it easy for people to clean up after themselves, public restrooms remain a nasty place to clean. Anyone—whether a paid employee or a volunteer–knows how true that is.

Self-Contained Cleaning Units

However, there are tools available to help make this job more of the “hands-off” rather than the less desirable “hands-on” method.

Different companies offer a self-contained cleaning unit, complete with an indoor pressure washer, a vacuum system, and a drying unit that enables thorough cleaning without a human’s ever having to touch anything. The all-in-one systems, which came into wider use in the mid-1990s, promote this no-touch approach using “green” chemicals or none at all.

The original model was designed specifically for the public restroom, which is not only the number-one source of maintenance complaints, but also the most health-hazardous area within a building, according to leading manufacturers and environmental scientists.

People who have used the hands-off systems report they are easy, make cleanup faster, and keep the crew from having to deal with hands-on, nasty situations better left un-described here; the result is a happier crew, cleaner restrooms, and more satisfied patrons.

“It is the most effective and efficient tool we have for cleaning our restrooms,” notes Lance Perry, manager of facilities and operations for the Lakota school district, the seventh largest in Ohio, with 22 schools. He says the district has 27 of the units and has used them for about 7 years in school and sports-complex restrooms.

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