BANFF – Does a bear shit in the woods? Apparently people do.
So much so that Town of Banff administration proposes to build a small four-season $458,000 public washroom at the corner of Bow Avenue and Wolf Street near the canoe docks.
Town of Banff officials say this area is getting busier all the time, noting there are several converging trails and parking in the area, which is close to riverfront residential homes.
“People are going rogue and using the washroom in the forested area between the banks of the river and the trail,” said Chris Hughes, the Town of Banff’s director of corporate services.
“There have been a number of complaints about people using the forest along the river instead of walking to the nearest washroom.”
The project design is expected to cost $100,000 and construction costs are pegged at $408,000. The project budget has a large contingency built in because of proximity to the Bow River.
During service review on Monday (Dec. 6), administration recommended moving ahead with design next year and construction in 2023.
However, the governance and finance committee voted 4-3 to push it out to 2023 and 2024 instead. No decision is final until budget deliberations, which get underway later this month.
The proposed washroom would contain two gender neutral, accessible washroom stalls and would tie into the water and sewer mains near the corner of Wolf Street and Bow Avenue.
The closest public washroom is adjacent to the Banff Community High School at the corner of Wolf Street and Banff Avenue, while the next closest washroom facility is at Central Park.
As a condition of the canoe concession operating contract, the current operator will provide $50,000 toward capital improvements at or near the site of the concession.
Hughes said this project is one of the agreed upon projects that the capital contribution could be used for.
“There is a caveat that this funding must be used within the first half of the seven-year contract,” he said. “This would mean that if the Town wanted to use this funding for this project, it would need to be spent prior to June 30, 2024.”
Councillor Ted Christensen, who was successful in his amendment to push the capital project back to 2023-24 from the recommended 2022-23, voiced concern about the $458,000 price tag for a washroom.
He wanted staff to consider the possibility of portable toilets as an interim solution, adding the location does not need “elaborate gold-plated” washrooms.
“This is a lot of money… If it doesn’t go ahead at this time, is there any possibility of having any porta potties, any temporary service put in the area?” he said. “It might serve the needs for a summer or two until this project gets underway.”
Town Manager Kelly Gibson said the Town of Banff has a strong position on porta potties, adding they don’t fit within the municipality’s design guidelines.
“We wouldn’t allow any other business to throw porta potties up,” he said. “We have made exceptions in parking lots where that’s been an issue.”
Councillor Chip Olver voiced support to have the washrooms built sooner rather than later.
“People need to really access washrooms when they have the need to use them,” she said.
“Wolf Street isn’t that far away, but it can be too far away, and I think that is why people are choosing to use the woods and that is not what we want to be finding next to our trails.”