Temporary toilet facilities and additional parking needs to be sourced for popular attractions and walking trails in the county, Clare councillors have said.
A joint motion from Cllr Pat McMahon (FF), Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) and Cllr Pat Daly (FF) urged Clare County Council to engage with Coillte and Government Departments to provide temporary toilet facilities and additional parking for the 2021 summer season at walking trails across the county.
An increased amount of walkers and cyclists stood out as one of the few positives of the pandemic, Cllr McMahon maintained. “I often wonder if men had babies would facilities be changed,” he stated as he flagged the absence of toilet facilities at public locations across the county. “It is a major disappointment and pet peeve that major parks, trails and visitors centres haven’t toilet facilities”. The Newmarket-on-Fergus representative felt the public would be prepared to pay to have use of public toilets if they were provided.
Facilities provided by Coillte or the OPW must provide outdoor toilets, Cllr Ryan commented. “Anybody that sets up a small shop or restaurant won’t be allowed open it unless they have toilet facilities and these bodies should be in same position”. He added, “It is definitely a major problem for ladies, not so much for gentleman”.
Promoting physical health is a key finding in research relating to COVID-19, Cllr Susan Crawford (GP) outlined. Acknowledgement of the gender difference was praised by Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF).
Universal access must be followed in the design of public toilets, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) outlined. “I have a 23 year old, if she needs to go to the bathroom, I have to take her out of the wheelchair and put her on the ground, it is undignified”.
Predicted big crowds in Clare for the staycation season requires “a real focus on resourcing and managing of our tourist resorts, our coastline and our tracks and trails this summer across the board. We really need to plan for success to ensure the experience is as good,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) said. Learnings from last summer must be put into practice, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) stressed.
“There is nothing worse than coming off the hill after a three and a half hour hike and having no toilet to go to before going home,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) lamented. She referenced the online database of public toilets pee.ie which showed “very few” in Clare.
Responsibility lies on the shoulders of the persons providing the facilities “to ensure proper and adequate facilities are in place,” Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) believed. If early crowds to the county are a sign of what is to come, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) predicted “our services will be under pressure”.
Many strategies have highlighted the importance of free to use facilities, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) flagged. He felt the issues was “a public health and accessibility” one. “Clare County Council have fallen short on agreements to put toilet facilities in place at Ballyalla,” he added.
Closed public houses has exasperated the issue, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) noted. He suggested that sports facilities and community halls be utilised to alleviate the problem.
“We’re not going to be able to put a toilet at every kilometre of public walkways,” Chief Executive of the Council, Pat Dowling informed councillors. He felt Cllr Hayes’ suggestion to look at public buildings was worth pursuing. “We don’t have the budget or resources to manage building 200 extra toilets”.