Popular DuPage forest preserves may ditch latrines for flush washrooms

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve may get public restrooms with flush toilets, but at a price.
Courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Waterfall Glen has oak-maple woodlands, prairies, ravines and views of the Des Plaines River.

One of the most popular and rugged forest preserves in DuPage County also lacks some modern creature comforts: Visitors have had to use either pit latrines or port-a-potties.

Forest preserve officials are working to provide a more pleasant experience — flush toilet facilities — in Waterfall Glen near Darien, Wood Dale Grove near Addison, Pratt’s Wayne Woods near Wayne and Mallard Lake near Hanover Park.

The district so far has purchased four prefabricated flush washroom kits at a cost of about $187,000 per site.

“However, there is a lot more work involved with these than just putting the kit together,” said Kevin Horsfall, the district’s planning and development director.

The project will require installing water wells, building septic systems and assembling the kits near parking lots in the four forest preserves.

Forest preserve commissioners are set to vote Tuesday on spending up to $2,288,700 on a contract with MYS, Inc., for construction of the three-unit, ADA-accessible facilities, which also would have baby changing stations.

Including the cost of the kits, the district is looking at about $750,000 in construction costs per site, Horsfall said.

At Mallard Lake Forest Preserve, the district will need to bring in electric service from Cloverdale Road and put in a concrete sidewalk for an accessible route from the existing parking lot to the washroom.

The proposed washroom in Waterfall Glen would sit at the new trail head at the parking lot on Cass Avenue and Bluff Road. The septic field would be located southwest of the washroom.

The four forest preserves were chosen because “they contain multiple amenities and are highly utilized,” Horsfall said.

Before he was elected, forest preserve President Daniel Hebreard called for flush toilets, saying the district has far too many amenities that are not ADA-accessible. In 2018, he noted almost all of the district’s bathrooms were outdated pit latrines.

“I think this has been a long time coming,” Commissioner Barbara O’Meara said at a planning session last week.

But Commissioner Linda Painter has raised questions about the cost and maintenance.

After pursuing a custom design for flush washrooms, officials determined pre-engineered structures would be less expensive. The district ordered the washroom kits from Romtec Inc., an Oregon manufacturer, through Sourcewell, a government purchasing cooperative.

The structures also would not have heating. The district plans to provide a portable toilet as an alternative when the washrooms would be closed during the winter.

If the contract is approved, construction could start later this month and wrap up in October.

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