07 September 2009

When you have to go…

It’s a fact of life, perhaps one we don’t want to acknowledge, but we all have to go sometimes. We all try to go at home, but sometimes we can be caught short. For most of us this is an inconvenience, but for those who don’t have a home or for those who need to go frequently, this is a chronic problem. Public conveniences have been available since at least the time of the Roman Empire—in fact until recent times, public lavatories were all that was available except for the very rich. Towns and cities had public conveniences for the masses but over time a lot of them have been decommissioned and removed. Many cities are now rebuilding these.

Here in Vancouver we are fortunate to have several public washrooms installed by the city, and many more throughout the city in our public parks. A debate on the cost and necessity of these park facilities is coming before the Park Board in the next year, and I would like to know your views on these facilities. Do you think they are important? Should scarce public funds be used for public toilets? Every park can’t support a public washroom, so which ones should?

Let me know what you think. Write to me at: betterparks@gmail.com or drop a line to the Park Board.


  1. Yes, we need more facilities. Many people get to know where Libraries and Community Centres are...
    We also need access to public TELEPHONES. Have you noticed hoe these are gone? Perhaps we could get a sponsor to combine services. Well, not quite combine...

  2. Christopher JK Richardson, FCASeptember 12, 2009 at 3:31 PM

    Stuart ... your interest in the 'basics of life' is commendable ... but my experience is that the consultation we all seek just does not happen ... now or in the past.

    Access to the new Riley Park 'outdoor' pool in the summer of 2009 was 'promised' in the 2008 election but NOTHING was discussed with the impacted community -- when the 'test' was abandoned -- for financial reasons.

    The use of facilities requires access & the 'necessities', (dependability -- will they be open when they say - this is generally done well by the Park Board ) and knowledge ( where & when ) ... some of us ( due to age and other matters ) are aware that various 'perks' no longer exist and frankly I am not sure if anyone is listening now. as in the past. The walking group I participate in seems to wonder the City with an 'eye' on where dependable ( i.e. clean and accessible washrooms are ).

    Who is to stand-up for the 'necessities' if they cost $.

    Telephones (Public whether free or not) are certainly an example as Wendy said in the earlier post ... they are not a necessity unless you do not have one. I would suggest the SAFETY and access to telephones seems to ignored until someone is attacked in a Park and we talk about it until the memory of the attack fades.

    Wireless access -- is an example. This was a done deal -- so I thought -- # 1 Kingsway would have it upon opening as every community centre would have it -- BUT I read last week -- President's Minutes ? that the project was dead. Dead ... where was the public debate. Wifi would have truly made our Parks ( & recreation ) Better.

    The Park Board has done well with washrooms in the past and it would be a shame if any further cutbacks were put in place without a comprehensive review.

    I compliment the Park Board for taking advantage of the new Riley Complex to place washroom accessible to 'outside' users. I assume that the hours of access will be extensive to serve the passive neighbourhood users of the Park like dog walkers and just walkers late at night.

    One intended or unintended benefit of the 'field houses' was that it provided an easy way to offer extended washroom hours in the neighbourhoods of Vancouver.

    Interesting -- the recent Trade & Convention Centre does not offer public washrooms - the Park Board washrooms at the foot of the Bute Street stairs are the only ones in the area once the Food Fair at Hornby and Canada Place Way is closed.

    So 'when you have to go ...' begs the Question of the 'basics' and who is the provider of last resort in tough economic times.

    I would say that the Park Board must begin to NOT ask the Q -- is this core to a recreation mandate but to a SERVICE mandate that may involve non-traditional recreation -- walking in your neighbourhood when the community centre is not open is recreation ... and that may include citizens without the traditional access to 'facilities'. I appreciate that this may cause other 'issues' to deal with BUT WE (Commisssioners) must adopt an inclusive 'client' definition ... one that sees Carnegie and its unique needs and for that matter Daycare as being needed by the community and therefore within the core of the neighbourhood offerings of the Park Board.

    Sorry Stewart ... I am tired of hearing that 'we represent' YOU as a theme until it gets back to the Board Table and the 'realities' seems to take over which perpetuates the split between 2099 the the rest of Vancouver.

    Toilets may just the issue that causes citizens to realize that they are 'pissed off'.

    Christopher JK Richardson, FCA
    a proud former Commissioner ('86-'90 and '99-'02).