Dover explains location of portable toilets at park

DOVER — Kirby Hudson, the director of the City of Dover Parks and Recreation Division, said he is in a “no win” situation when it comes to the location of a couple of porta potties on the beach side of Silver Lake Park at the end of Washington Street.

Mr. Hudson said that no matter where the city places the porta potties, people have complained.
When the porta potties were located by the Silver Lake beach area, he said,

“People didn’t like that because it was an eyesore.” The toilets were then moved closer to the corner going toward the playground and people complained “that’s where the park’s handicapped parking spots are.”

Eddy Seger wrote a letter to the Delaware State News on Aug. 23 saying that the current location of the toilets on the west side of the Silver Lake Park parking lot, backing up to the Whatcoat Cemetery, is disrespectful.
“(This is) over simple respect for the dead and the people who come to visit their final resting place,” Mr. Seger wrote.

Mr. Hudson said there is a buffer of trees between the parking lot and the cemetery and that he hasn’t received any other complaints over the current location of the porta potties.

“Here’s the problem,” said Mr. Hudson. “We moved those porta potties. This is the fourth time we’ve moved them. Each time we’ve moved them we’ve received complaints. We understand why (Mr. Seger is) upset, because they back up to the cemetery. But with the trees in between the cemetery and the porta potties you can’t even see them if you’re walking in the cemetery.”

Mr. Seger said this isn’t the first time he has complained about the location of the toilets.
He said he wrote to Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen two years ago about the porta potties being located next to the cemetery and the city had them moved across the parking lot within two days, something he called “a testament to good sense, respect, and responsive government.”

Kirby Hudson

“Then, this year, they returned to the previous cemetery location,” Mr. Seger wrote. “Once again, early this summer, I wrote a letter to Mr. Christiansen, reminding him of what we had done the year before.
Mayor Christiansen said there has got to be a way to come up with an amicable solution to the potty problem.

“I concur with Mr. Seger’s concerns and have asked as I previously did that their location be reviewed for safety and convenience,” the mayor said. “They were moved. However, city staff has apparently re-evaluated their location and the need also for permanent facilities.
“I will continue as mayor to make the concerns of our resident’s priority one by referring those concerns to the appropriate department and working with those departments to resolve those issues.”

Jane Downes, a member of Whatcoat United Methodist Church, said the church didn’t have any issue with the current location of the porta potties.
“We don’t have a problem with it,” she said. “Somebody over there that lives near there is raising the devil over it. (Those porta potties) have been there for 30 years as far as I know about it. I don’t pay any attention to it. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Mr. Seger, during a mid-June meeting with Mr. Hudson, suggested placing the porta potties at the far end of the Silver Lake beach’s parking lot, but Mr. Hudson said it would be too far to walk for handicapped park visitors, the elderly and children.

“That’s almost a quarter-mile walk from the playground area,” Mr. Hudson said.
Mr. Seger’s biggest complaints about the current location of the porta potties are that “they are placed right next to a predominantly African-American cemetery, presenting an eyesore to anyone visiting or conducting a funeral.”

He also mentioned foul odor emanating from the toilets, particularly in summer.
“This is a problem created by humans that can be solved by humans, especially if they aren’t just looking at the numbers of complaints, but for the right thing to do,” Mr. Seger said.

Mr. Hudson said that Mr. Seger was the only one who has complained about the location of the porta potties at Silver Lake Park and that members of the city’s Silver Lake Commission have said the temporary bathroom location is fine.

“Where we are right now, those facilities are located somewhat under a tree so on hot days when you have to use them you don’t burn up in the heat,” said Mr. Hudson. “When you’re in the cemetery (the toilets) are hidden by a tree, so you can’t see it.
“We have moved the porta potties four times and haven’t had any complaints about their current location other than (Mr. Seger). The bathrooms have got to be in that area. A1 (Sanitation) can’t get in there if they’re located in the park – and they have to be somewhere.”

Mr. Seger still holds out hope that the city will eventually agree to relocate the porta potties – or build permanent restroom facilities at the park.

“As of today, the outhouses are still next to the cemetery,” he wrote. “This is a choice the city has made. In a recent story about Silver Lake Day, Mayor Christiansen called Silver Lake a ‘gem.’ It’s past time that we treat it and its neighbors accordingly.”

Mayor Christiansen said, “I still contend that Silver Lake is indeed a ‘Gem of our City’ and the mayor and council along with city staff work to make each of our parks and recreation venues amenable and user friendly for all of our citizens.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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