Toilet Tiff: Clearwater residents want public bathrooms open - WFLA News Channel 8

Toilet Tiff: Clearwater residents want public bathrooms open

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CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) -

Neighborhoods in Clearwater want their park's public restrooms back and on Thursday they'll approach city council members to tell them about it.  "We're just asking the city to kind of get creative rather than just welding the doors shut on the restroom," said Carl Schrader, the President of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition.

Communities here have come together with a resolution, asking council members to reconsider the latest bathroom closure at Crest Lake Park. Part of the issue was money; the other was complaints about shady things happening in those bathrooms.  "Drug dealings, homosexual activities, prostitutes ... that type of activity has been documented in the park years ago in the restrooms," said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

Cretekos said after the recession started, crews slowly closed up facilities at parks across the city.  "Personally, I would like to have a restroom in every park but economically - that's not feasible," he said. "We've closed lights at tennis courts. We have other neighborhoods who would love to have bathrooms at their parks...and we've told them no. Our parks and rec department ... they have been cut almost more than any other agency."

Cretekos said the only bathrooms still open are those at the beach and it's because a private contractor runs those near concession stands.  "The neighbors thought this was short-term," Schrader said. " There's a lot of tourists who use this park. There's people who don't live in the neighborhood who use the park including those at the dog park."

Visitors like Kelly Dowden, who has two small children, have had their time here shortened because of it.  "We've had to leave the park a couple times because the bathrooms were not open," Dowden said. "Maybe they could open them during the day and at night they should close."

The push for improvements around the park have increased since the stabbing death of Jason Paul nearby in January. Schrader said neighbors are planning events for the park to get the public engaged again, including a candlelight service for Paul. For now, he said the coalition will take suggestions to the council Thursday at 6:00.  "One of them is: There's 7 restrooms; maybe they can open one a day and have one day for cleaning," he said.

Another suggestion is to have people convicted of minor misdemeanors clean the restrooms as a community service.  The Mayor says he has a big vision for Crest Lake part but it could take a couple years to see it through.  "To make it a signature park ... people drive by Crest Lake park - thousands of them - and most don't realize there's a park right there," Cretekos said. "We need to come up with the money. It's a couple years down the road but my intent as Mayor and hopefully the council will agree that we will make Crest Lake Park a signature park; not just for the neighborhood; but the entire community. You'll see that park and say - wow - I want to stop there and that should really help out. Hopefully at that point - we'll be able to restore the bathrooms."

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