Environmental group raises stink about fecal problem
Visitors to BLESS shelter doing business in the bushes, bringing calls for public washrooms
Saturday, Jul 19, 2014 06:00 am
A local environmentalist is calling on the city this week to fix a growing threat to public health near the Sturgeon River: people defecating in the bushes.
Al Henry, a member of the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS, the official stewards of Big Lake), spoke to the Gazette this week about the toilet problem near the BLESS shelter on the Red Willow Trail.
The new Rotary Park has caused an uptick in the amount of people and young children visiting this area, Henry said. Since there are no public washrooms near the park, this has also caused a jump in the number of people who are using the shrubs near the BLESS shelter and canoe launch as a toilet.
“It’s unhealthy. It’s unsanitary. It’s dangerous,” Henry said. “It’s not good PR for St. Albert.”
Henry guessed that about one in 10 visitors have been using the bushes in this area to do their business, and noted that other BLESS members have seen people doing so.
“Unless the deer are using toilet paper, my guess it’s probably human,” he said when asked about the nature of the waste found in the area.
While the park itself is excellent, Henry expressed concern that its presence means that more children are at risk of exposure to any human waste left around it.
“You can’t have fecal matter around a public area like that.”
Henry voiced frustration over the city’s inaction on this issue, saying he has been prodding them about it for about six weeks.
“If it was important to them, they could have a port-a-potty down there within an hour.”
St. Albert-Saint City Rotary Club president Ross Algar said he has heard from Henry and is working to get two portable washrooms on site at the park.
“Right from day one we wanted toilet facilities there,” he said, but it’s been tough for the volunteer group to find the time to get them.
Permanent facilities are unlikely, as the group can’t put in a sewer line or septic tank without breaking the clay cap atop the Riel Park landfill, he said.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said city staffers will put up signs and gates around the park later this summer directing people to use the facilities at the nearby football field.
“Those bathrooms are public bathrooms, but unfortunately people often don’t want to go that far,” he said.
There are also washrooms at the end of the John E. Poole interpretive boardwalk, Crouse noted.
Under the city’s parks bylaw, it is illegal to leave any matter of any kind likely to prove offensive, injurious or unsightly in a city park unless authorized to do so, said city municipal enforcement officer Garnet Melnyk. Doing so in the form of urine or feces could result in a $100 fine.
It’s possible, but unlikely, that a person seen making such a deposit in the bush would be charged under the Criminal Code for performing a lewd act, said RCMP Cpl. Laurel Kading. Much would depend on the circumstances around the act.
“It really is on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
Algar said the port-a-potties should be in place within three weeks, pending city approval of a concrete pad for them.