CLEARWATER -- It wasn't only chain-link fencing that has cluttered the landscape at Coachman Park for the last two months; no less than 50 Port-o-let's have remained in place along the Drew Street extension and below the bluff in what is normally a parking lot.
The large number of Port-o-let's was clearly needed during Sunday's Next Big Thing concert. Lines formed during the afternoon for the fully occupied facilities, a consequence of the City's successful beer sales operation.
Why were the Port-o-let's in place for 65 days when they were only needed for 18? A matter of economics. According to City spokesperson Joelle Castelli, the unit cost of a one-day rental is $55, while the monthly cost is only $65. Using Castelli's numbers, the rental of Coachman Park's Port-o-lets this Fall amounts to nearly $10,000, much of that bourn by event promoters.
But Countryside resident John Wiser wonders why the City is willing to rent a large number of Port-o-lets for Coachman Park events, but has balked at requests for restroom facilities at two parks in his neighborhood. He said, "Forest Run Park has six venues, including tennis courts, handball and basketball courts, a trail, exercise stations, a playground and no restrooms."
Wiser has made frequent pleas to the City Council for facilities at both Forest Run and the Countryside ball fields, but they have been rejected. He recalls that Kevin Dunbar, Clearwater's Director of Parks and Recreation, claimed that bathroom facilities were unnecessary, that Forest Run and the ball fields were neighborhood parks, and their users lived within walking distance. "Use your own bathroom" was the unstated answer.
While quality of life of the homeless who frequent Coachman Park has benefited from the City's Port-o-let largesse, the pressing concerns of the children who use Forest Run Park and the ball fields at the Countryside Recreation Center have gone unrelieved.
Wiser said, "I wish that the City would divert four of the Coachman Park Port-o-let's, installing two at Forest Run and two at the Countryside Rec Center ball fields until permanent facilities are built." Wiser and other users of Countryside's recreation facilities are holding more than their breath while awaiting a favorable answer.
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