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Bow Falls porta-potties backed up for another year

“There are people who do not want to go into a portable toilet so we do find fecal matter and things like that regularly at Bow Falls, at Liricon lot, at other areas as well."
Porta-potties at Banff Train Station's 900-stalling parking lot. JORDAN SMALL RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Nature calls but the Town of Banff isn’t answering just yet.

Banff council has pushed back setting up porta-potties at the popular Bow Falls tourist attraction until 2025 and postponed building permanent washrooms near the canoe docks until 2027-28 to save money.

“Basically, we have municipal employees who have to pick it up from the bushes and stuff like that,” said Paul Godfrey, director of operations for the Town of Banff during a recent council meeting.

“We do run into it, I don’t want to say regularly, but a number of times.”

However, Godfrey said the problem still exists in areas where there are porta-potties such as the intercept parking lot.

“There are people who do not want to go into a portable toilet so we do find fecal matter and things like that regularly at Bow Falls, at [the] Liricon lot, at other areas as well,” he said.

Council voted 4-3 against installing portable toilets at Bow Falls, scheduled for 2024 until 2025, saving $25,000 in the capital budget and $39,000 in the operating budget this year. The higher costs are associated with wooden fencing to screen the portable toilets.

In addition, council also pushed back construction of a $500,000 permanent washroom facility at the corner of Bow Avenue and Wolf Street near the canoe docks, which was on the books for 2026-27 until 2027-28.

While the permanent facilities aren’t happening any time soon, there are plans to buy a two-stall portable toilet facility, which will be essentially a wood-clad sea-can container with heated stalls, sinks and running water for this busy location in time for summer.

This temporary plan for portable toilets comes with a price tag of $70,650 in capital costs and $77,200 in operating costs, which includes contracting out the water and holding tank servicing.

Coun. Chip Olver said meeting visitors’ and residents’ bathroom needs is important.

She said she would also like to see a sign at portable washrooms, indicating where the permanent flush facilities are located in town.

“It’s hard for people to travel almost half a kilometre to go to the bathroom from a spot that they need a washroom,” said Olver.

“Washroom facilities are such a basic human need that we do need to pay attention to them.”

Mayor Corrie DiManno said she wanted to be more strategic in where permanent washrooms are placed, noting the Central Park washrooms are only about 400 metres from the canoe docks.

With future plans for redevelopment of Bow Avenue, she said there is a bigger picture in mind for that area before moving forward with permanent washrooms.

“For me, it’s kind of a parallel conversation with Bow Ave redevelopment,” she said.

Moving forward, administration will draw up a prioritization matrix for locations for new washrooms.

“It feels like we’re more just kind of putting them where we think they should go rather than where it’s been determined they should go,” said DiManno.

Darren Enns, director of planning and environment for the Town of Banff, said a 2016 survey in conjunction with Banff & Lake Louise Tourism showed visitors’ primary challenges were trying to find parking and a washroom.

He said results of that survey, which was done by an independent consultant, triggered construction of the public washrooms at Central Park.

“We never scaled that up to ‘is this the right place for a washroom’, but intuitively we always believed that areas of congregation for visitors or areas where we were finding evidence of washroom use, were areas that we should focus on,” he said.

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