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Inequity in Park Facilities?

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2009/3/19 18:40:00 (2625 reads)

Yesterday we read with interest a blog post on the campaign website of Winston Edmondson, who is running for Mayor of Lewisville. Edmondson had visited Central Park, and spoken with a little boy who complained that his neighborhood park, Sycamore Park, needed "real" bathrooms. Edmondson drove to Sycamore Park where he photographed two portable toilets.

"Instead of the nice, sanitary bathrooms with running water, which most of us are accustomed to, Sycamore Park has port-o-potties. I tell my kids not to use portable toilets because they're usually filthy. Seomeone felt that these were acceptable for the children of this neighborhood? I approached these portable stalls and was nearly knocked down by the odor. There is no excuse for this. Sycamore Park is the only park in Lewisville with conditions like this. I promise that nothing like this will EVER happen on my watch."

Now, I wasn't familiar with Sycamore Park, so I had to look it up on a map:

View Larger Map

My first thought on reading this was to try to recall whether my neighborhood's tiny Willow Grove Park, in Southwestern Lewisville has toilets. Surely, I would have remembered seeing portable toilets. As it turns out, there are not. No porta-loos, and no permanent buildings.

Today, city staff provided this explanation about our parks:

Sycamore Park is a 4.1 acre neighborhood park. The primary function of a neighborhood park is the provision of recreational space for the neighborhood which surrounds it. Space in the neighborhood park should be distributed between active and passive uses.

Central Park is a 39.5 acre community park. A community park is larger in size than a neighborhood park and provides service to several neighborhoods or specific sections of the community. The community park is oriented primarily toward providing recreational opportunities not feasible in a neighborhood park. Community parks should be developed for both active and passive use.

Okay, so we understand that comparing these two parks (Central and Sycamore) is like comparing apples to oranges. But what is the criteria for determining restroom placement? City staff had this answer:
Sycamore Park is one of thirteen neighborhood parks in the Lewisville park system. The portable toilets were placed in the park upon request several years ago. The portable toilets can be removed from the park if the neighborhood no longer desires to have them in the park. There are portable toilets in other park areas but not in other neighborhood parks. Austin Kent Ellis Park is the only neighborhood park with a restroom facility. This is a very unusual situation with two neighborhood parks adjacent to each other and divided by an alley (Austin Kent Ellis and Iris Lane). The proximity of the parks to each other and the heavy sports use creates more of community park in function which justifies the restroom facility. There are a total of six community parks in the Lewisville park system with public restrooms in only three of the park areas.
(Emphasis mine)
So, it would seem that having the portable toilets was sort of a special dispensation, based on resident requests. I can imagine that need arising if for instance, you had vagrants urinating and defecating in the open, or if there were no convenient homes or businesses nearby.

There is the question of the non-working drinking fountains though:
"As Mayor, this embarrassment will be corrected. Real bathrooms with running water will be constructed, just like the other parks have. In addition to that, the water fountain will be repaired. Sycamore Park will have water fountains with fresh, cool, flowing water, just like the other parks."

Staff had this response:
"Park drinking fountains are drained and winterized each fall to protect them from damage during the cold winter months. The park maintenance crews began flushing and servicing the fountains last week. All fountains will be operational in the next few days barring any delay due to winter damage."

Well, that makes perfect sense to me. We turn off our outside faucets each winter to protect them from freezing. I never had thought about the need to do that with water fountains. City staff note that 10 of the city's 13 neighborhood parks have no water fountains at all. As someone who hates to see plastic bottles sitting under Mt. Lewisville forever after quenching someone's thirst just once, I'm all in favor of getting more water fountains. I wonder what that would cost?

Edmondson went on to discuss a creek that runs along the walking trail in Sycamore Park:
The residents have frequently complained about the creek that runs parallel to the walking trail. It clearly poses a danger to children. I agree with you, and we'll do something about it. We'll construct railing, or some other safety mechanism so your children can ride their bikes and skateboards safely, just like all the other parks. You have my word.

This part really didn't make sense to me. As a kid, I was all about playing in creeks. The "danger" is part of the fun. I remember coming home soaked more than a few times. But thinking again about Central Park or the Timber Creek Trail that just opened near Central Park, neither of them have railings. In fact, here's a little video of me and my kids playing down in the creek last year, watching the fish and tadpoles swim around:

That said, I guess if the neighborhoods want a rail to prevent unsupervised children from falling into a creek, that won't bother me. I'll just hop over. I would just imagine that if we put rails along all of the city's miles of creek, it could get really expensive really quickly.

Upon examining all of this, it does seem pretty clear to me that this is not a case of inequity in our parks. Rather it's the case of a guy who loves his city dearly, running for mayor, and looking for a platform by talking to the citizens. In this case, Mr. Edmondson went over the top. It is absolutely admirable to seek input and suggestions, and to stand up for the citizens. But as this blogger has learned the hard way, and continues to struggle with, sometimes our visceral reactions to a perceived inequity can blind us to our duty to check the facts and get a second opinion.

Here's what really made me feel embarrassed for Mr. Edmondson, because I've done the same thing in the past:
"Dean, if you'll get in touch with me and let me know why you're okay with this type of disparity, I'll update this post with your response. That goes for all of the issues that I'm investigating on behalf of the citizens that feel as though they've been ignored. From this day forward they will be heard. I will be their voice."

I cringe because in the time I've known and watched Dean Ueckert, though I've certainly disagreed with his position on some issues, I've always believed him to be a reasonable guy who would be very concerned with any appearance of inequity.

Last night, I told Mr. Edmondson that I thought the piece was "over the top". I hope the rest of the campaign will see more civil and restrained discourse.

WhosPlayin will try to have written interviews in the coming weeks with all of the Mayoral candidates: Dean Ueckert, Winston Edmondson, and Brandon Bertrand.

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Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/20 11:01  Updated: 2009/3/20 11:40
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
I would like to thank you for a very balanced opinion to the subject of restrooms in neighborhood parks. I was very dismayed to read Mr. Edmondson's blog. The Mayor's position is not one that lends itself to knee jerk reactions without first doing a little background investigation to get the facts. As a former council member I had the distinct honor of serving along side of one of the best Mayor's Lewisville has ever had, Bobbie Mitchell. Her example on how one should conduct themselves in that office should be followed. Always get the facts before stirring the might get burned if not

There is however some very important issues that have been left out of all of this discussion. Park restrooms in and of themselves are very dangerous places and have NO place in neighborhood parks. For the health, safety and welfare of the citizens they should NEVER be considered. They tend to attract, pedophiles, have been used on numerous occasions for drug transactions and a place to meet and mingle for anonymous sex. This is simply a fact and as a formal council member I worked diligently to see to it that those were not places we built with our tax dollars. They are a public safety nightmare.

Thank you,
Ronni Cade

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/20 11:46  Updated: 2009/3/20 11:46
Joined: 2008/12/12
Posts: 4054
 Sex in public restrooms
It's really a shame that people misuse facilities like that. I honestly can't think of anything more gross than doing it in a porta-potty. It sucks for the rest of us because it can be a real inconvenience to have to drive somewhere to find a bathroom.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/23 11:10  Updated: 2009/3/23 13:57
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
Mr. Cade I disagree with the need to ban all public park restrooms. The restrooms at a place like Central Park, with pavillions citizens can rent for their parties, need clean public restrooms. The host of a party cannot leave the park and go home when their kids need the restroom. They need to get to the party early to set up and stay late to clean up. If we are worried about inappropriate us, then I would suggest locking the bathrooms after hours (yeah, they can get broken into, but you're never going to stop every criminal). I would like to request that someone clean the bathrooms hourly or bi-hourly on weekends, though. And for the record, I supervise my young children in all public restrooms (including those in malls and McDonald's) because of pedophiles. Pedophiles go anywhere children go, so closing park restrooms doesn't seem to be the answer to me.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/24 21:23  Updated: 2009/3/24 22:23
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
First of all it's Ms. Cade and I did not say to close/ban all public park restrooms. I was clearly speaking of restrooms in "neighborhood" parks, Central Park is not defined as a neighborhood park.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/25 14:57  Updated: 2009/3/25 15:01
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
I like that he's speaking out for the people.  A knee jerk reaction might just be what this city needs.  Especially if the knee jerks, the foot comes up, and it kicks some of the rude city council members right where it hurts.  I can't remember what it feels like to have people on the city council that actually listen and can relate to us.

I'm tired of the stuck up snobs and ego maniacs running the show.

Get off your soap box for a minute and see what it's like to live where I live, Cade.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/25 15:43  Updated: 2009/3/25 15:43
Joined: 2008/12/12
Posts: 4054
 Keep it civil
If you're frustrated and you don't feel like you're being listened to, we need to get your constructive input on what your neighborhood needs.

Contact the editor at and lets communicate.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/25 16:21  Updated: 2009/3/25 17:03
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
I do not beleive I was ever on a soap box in my posts here...just making a point that was clearly over looked; not sure why you are so angry. We always need council members that will stand up and listen to the people, who will serve the people and who are not in it for the dog and pony shows. That's what I did when I was on council and came under a lot of fire because of it. Not sure where you live but I happen to live in Old Town on S Poydras, just 2 blocks from the original subject matter here. Old Town is where the heart is in Lewisville and as a whole if we forget where we came from then we tend to loose sight of where we should be going. Elections should never become personal, they should be about what is best for the citizens. Personal attacks only take away from the issues. A candidate should be running for a POSITION or PLACE in office, not against a person. Bring to the table qualifications and concerns on issues not hatred and attacks on people. But I will say character and the ability to make sound decisions based on fact does matter.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/29 1:12  Updated: 2009/3/29 11:14
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
Yes, there are very important issues left out of all the discussion. Parks in general with or without restrooms are dangerous places and have NO place in neighborhoods. The safety and welfare of citizens should always be considered. They tend to attract, pedophiles, they are used for drug transactions and they are a place to meet and mingle for anonymous sex. This is a actual fact and parks are places we should not build with our tax dollars. The ARE a public safety nightmare.

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/27 15:13  Updated: 2009/3/27 17:37
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities?
Create a mechanism for creek saftey? What!? It is amazing how when given to the right person any problem can become a massive, life changing earth shaking issue.

Look if you walk up to a creek and it is raging with fury, then do not get in. Done, thats our mechanism. How many injuries are due to that creek in the first place? If I walk down the street and fall into a sewer opening, then we need to think of a saftey mechanism (and a shower). If I wake up and have a bad hair day because Lewsiville is too windy that day we do not need to create a saftey mechanism that will block the city from wind. Maybe a sign that says, "City not responsible for injury. Play at own risk" 35 dollar sign solves the same problem that a 10,000 dollar fence would.

Since we are thinking of ways to spend money lets start with ummm, economic development or ummm maybe just maybe crime prevention programs. You know the things that effect all of our families and childeren. Here is another odd-ball idea maybe we can work on solutions to Mt. Lewsiville (landfill). Which by the way I did notice that they do not have a safety rail surrounding the landfill. I have a saftey mechanism for you, common sense. Most if not ALL of our problems would be solved with we use my patented Common Sense Saftey Mechanism. We can make it sound official by calling it CSSM for short (sarcasim).

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/29 0:35  Updated: 2009/3/29 11:12
 Re: Inequity in Park Facilities
It's a little thing to ask for a fence when it comes to the life of a child. Fact: fatal drowning remains second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 yrs. Prevention tip: fence. Lets protect the children. Right Mr.B

Poster Thread
Posted: 2009/3/29 11:27  Updated: 2009/3/29 11:27
Joined: 2008/12/12
Posts: 4054
 About fences in parks
Whenever there is a direct interface between a playground and a street, or a playground and any steep drop such as a creek, you generally will have fences. The idea being that a fence will delay a small child from running down into a creek or chasing after a lost ball, just long enough for an adult to take control of the situation.

Any child who is small enough to accidentally run down into a creek in areas other than the immediate area around a playground, probably should be better supervised by their parent or guardian.

Other articles
2015/5/26 21:20:00 - LHS Choir Closes 2015 Season With Fanfare
2015/5/26 7:40:00 - Lewisville Taking Applications for Citizens University
2015/5/25 14:13:46 - Lewisville Lake Spillway Overtopping
2015/5/25 10:40:00 - Possible Severe Weather for Monday Afternoon
2015/5/24 15:50:00 - Possible Tornado Destroys Part of Lewisville Boat Storage
2015/5/23 17:50:00 - Tornado Watch Saturday Night
2015/5/23 16:03:09 - Lewisville Police Respond to Barricaded Person in Castle Hills
2015/5/23 12:10:00 - Updated: Flower Mound HS Student Photographer Forced to Take Down Website
2015/5/22 7:47:47 - Lake and Hydrology Update - 5/22/2015
2015/5/21 23:11:55 - Lewisville Memorial Day Observance Scheduled for May 25th - 8:30 a.m.

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