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Porta potty pranksters creating problems in several areas of county

Providers cannot manage the clean-up this time of year

By Katherine Nettles

Porta potty units will be missing at the Gunnison River Whitewater Park over this busy holiday weekend due to local vandalism and interference, and several other locations in the county risk losing their portable toilet amenities altogether due to repeated public misuse.

“Actually, it’s more prankster than vandalism,” said Gunnison County public works director Marlene Crosby in a report to county commissioners on July 2. She said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is having problems with the portable toilets stationed at Hartman Rocks, and the county is having problems with them along the Gunnison River at the North Bridge across from Garlic Mike’s as well as at the Whitewater Park.

At the North Bridge, there are problems with people throwing trash in the unit, including glass bottles and disposable diapers.

“We have signed the units that trash is unacceptable. That unit has been tipped over in the last two weeks, but there has not been a spill.  It is still on site,” said Crosby. 

“You know, if they tip them over to the right or to the left, it’s a matter of sitting them up,” she explained. “At the Whitewater Park, they pulled the rebar that stakes them and tipped them forward, which causes a spill that has to be cleaned up. The providers said they don’t have time coming into the Fourth of July to deal with it.”

County manager Matthew Birnie asked if there is a way to chain the porta potties down, or chain them to a tree to keep them in place. Crosby responded that they sit low to the ground and chains around them would prevent opening the doors. “The company is  incredibly busy since they service construction sites, recreation areas for the County, the BLM and the Forest Service as well as special events. They do not have time to clean up after disrespectful people,” she said. “We can contact them again after the Fourth of July weekend.”

Crosby said that the units use environmentally safe products when servicing or cleaning up the units, so that aspect “is not a concern.”

The problems have been ongoing out at Hartmann Rocks, where BLM workers have been dealing with too much trash being thrown in the porta potty units as well.

Stuart Schneider, associate field manager for the BLM, said one porta potty was turned over in the area, and then a number of people have been throwing trash in them. Trash clogs the facilities up and can make pumping the units out very difficult.

“The contractor has been very frustrated,” said Schneider. “If our contractor can’t service them anymore, then they are going to have to take them out, which would be terrible.”

There are 50 dispersed sites within Hartman’s, which are often shared by two groups at a time. “So there could be hundreds of people using those sites on any given day,” said Schneider. The BLM posted a public service alert on its Facebook page about the issue last week in hopes of better public awareness.

“So we’re hoping that word will get around to please not do that, and that locals will help keep an eye on them … or report it if they see someone monkeying around with them, and definitely contact the sheriff’s department to report anyone misusing them.”

As for the Whitewater Park, Crosby said the regular bathroom facilities are still there and hopefully they don’t get further vandalized than they have been since they were sprayed with graffiti and written on several years ago.

Schneider said if the BLM has to remove the units from Hartman Rocks, “people will have to just go on the ground … so we’re really hoping they don’t have to take those out.”

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