McLennan Park restrooms will remain closed while the city studies the sinking soils of the former Kitchener landfill

KITCHENER — Kitchener’s McLennan Park restroom building will remain closed this year as the city studies sinking soils in the former landfill.

Surrounded by fences, toilets – usually open three seasons a year – have been banned for all of this year and most of 2021.

In 2020, the toilets were significantly vandalized and then rebuilt twice.

But the building’s challenges run deeper than a lingering threat of costly vandalism.

The toilets – in fact, much of the park‘s infrastructure – are susceptible to permanent sinking, as decaying trash beneath the surface settles and shifts.

Parts of the asphalt plaza surrounding the restrooms are crumbling away from the building’s foundation, leaving holes around the perimeter.

“This plaza and the soles of the restrooms have had some pretty significant subsidence,” said city parks and cemeteries director Niall Lobley.

“It led to us not being able to maintain safe access to the toilets,” he said. “We’re talking inches a year. It is quite significant. »

A row of portable toilets takes place, just outside the fence.

Lobley and Ward 6 Coun. Paul Singh agrees that this is not an ideal compromise.

“Portable potties are not an appropriate solution” for one of the city‘s largest parks, Singh said. “We want to make sure park visitors have a good experience at McLennan Park.”

Singh said he pushed to bring in a portable toilet trailer when he was told the building would remain closed again this year, but staff feared it could also be targeted by vandals.

While anticipating complaints about the shutdown, Lobley said his department only received occasional service requests for laptops.

On a recent outing to the park, Kitchener resident Val Krokoszynski said it would be nice to be able to use the proper restroom while visiting with her grandson.

“We’ve been coming here for probably six or seven years, and we’ve rarely been able to use this toilet.”

The building is perhaps the most visible victim of a changing landscape, but there are impacts throughout the park.

Drainage issues at paddling pool and dog park. Cracks in the road. Basketball courts that aren’t as flat as they should be.

Several years ago, methane gas was found to collect in drain pipes under the grass instead of migrating naturally to a collection system on the perimeter of the park. Around the same time, subsidence in the ground caused a sewer line to collapse under the toilet.

More recently, the concrete skatebowl had to be removed, and a five-meter-tall aluminum sculpture called “Moments” was dismantled after developing a tilt.

“There was a realization that it was going to be complex,” Lobley said of the park, which was officially completed in 2011, 35 years after the landfill closed. “I think it turned out to be more complex and more complicated.”

The City and Region of Waterloo share responsibility for the maintenance of the park – the region is responsible for underground landfill operations, while the city oversees facilities and maintenance of the park above ground.

Kitchener launched a thorough and expert study of the park a few months ago, with a report due next year.

“They’re going to review everything about the site,” Lobley said, with recommendations for what needs to be added, fixed or replaced later.

“It’s far too early to say what this park will look like in five or ten years.” Lobley hopes some of the initial work will explore a solution to the toilet situation.

The region will also be undertaking its own work at the park this summer.

“Within the next two weeks, the region will begin repairing and replacing existing underground infrastructure to improve gas gathering,” the region’s Chad Schwartzentruber said in an email.

“Once this is completed, the region will also improve surface leveling in the project area.”

Despite its challenges, Singh remains committed to McLennan Park and said extensive public consultation should be conducted to help shape its future.

“It receives a lot of visitors and it is appreciated by many, all over the city,” he said. “We have to find long-term solutions.”

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