In Monday’s edition
the Chesterton Tribune ran a Voice of the People submitted by a
reader appalled by conditions in the restrooms of the new comfort station
built by Pavilion Partners LLC at the Indiana Dunes State Park beach.
In particular the
reader expressed her disgust at the state of the toilets: “Raw sewage was
overflowing on the floor. People in bare feet had to wade through waste.”
Monday’s Voice is
the third one published by the Tribune since May to make basically
the same point: the condition of the new comfort station’s restrooms leaves
a great deal to be desired.
For the record, a
check of the comfort station by Tribune staffers around 3 p.m. Monday
found all toilets functioning in both the men’s and women’s restrooms and
neither “sewage” nor litter of any kind on the floors, although they were
wet and sandy, as one might expect of restrooms at a beach. The urinals,
sinks, and hand dryers were likewise functioning and the soap dispensers
To be sure, beach
traffic on a non-holiday Monday afternoon will always be substantially less
than that on a weekend afternoon but Monday was hot and muggy and the main
(east) parking lot was nearly full, so it’s not the case that the restrooms
weren’t getting some serious use on that day.
On Tuesday, Brandt
Baughman, property manager at Indiana Dunes State Park, talked to the
Tribune about the challenges of maintaining the comfort station’s
restrooms. He made three points:
Department of Natural Resources is no longer responsible for maintaining the
comfort station’s restrooms. Pavilion Partners is.
¥The greater the
volume of use, the harder it is to keep public restrooms clean and stocked.
are not infrequently targeted by vandals. And folks without a trace of
malice in them at all still--children, many of them--sometimes try to flush
The DNR has been
out of the comfort station restroom business since Pavilion Partners gutted
the Pavilion last year, Baughman told the Tribune. The maintenance of
the comfort station’s restrooms is now “all on Pavilion Partners,” which has
retained a “housekeeping” contractor to keep them clean and stocked, he
“Sometimes it’s a
matter of timing,” Baughman noted. “If a visitor goes into the comfort
station earlier in the morning, before housekeeping has arrived, it might be
a mess. If a visitor goes in soon after housekeeping, it’ll probably look
Even so, on a busy
day the beach can see more visitors than the Town of Chesterton has
residents. “There might be 15,000 people in a day converging on one set of
restrooms,” Baughman said. “The impact of that is going to be great. We
faced the same challenges when we were in charge of the Pavilion restrooms.”
Baughman did say
that there are actually more toilets in the new restrooms than were in the
suggested that the use of the term “raw sewage” by the author of Monday’s
Voice of the People calls to mind backups and sewer main failures, when to
his knowledge there have been no such failures ever.
Much more likely is
a clogged and overflowing toilet, which Baughman said is certainly
disgusting and hardly unheard of but may have any number of causes having
nothing to do with the actual quality of the plumbing or the fixtures. “Our
maintenance staff pulls all sorts of things out of the lift station that
shouldn’t have been flushed. Swim suits. Sunglasses. Some things make it
through the system and end up clogging the lift station. Other things don’t
and clog the toilet instead.”
And there’ll always
be that kid who thinks it’s funny to clog a toilet deliberately, Baughman
acknowledge that the design of the comfort station--which opens to the
beach--exposes the interior to sand blown in by a north wind. Pavilion
Partners is planning to implement a fix for that over the winter. Right now,
though, the sand on the floors is mostly “being tracked in by visitors who
are wet and whose feet are covered in sand,” he said.
have any issue at all with conditions in the comfort station’s restrooms,
Baughman encouraged them to find a housekeeper and report the problem.
Failing that, they can contact DNR staff at the park and the staff will make
sure that housekeeping is made aware of the concern.