Pandemic potty break: Fewer public facilities available

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Cleaning and sanitizing public spaces is a key strategy for reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Opening public restrooms this year has presented a challenge since they need to be cleaned so often and staff resources are limited. 

Air dryers for drying hands have been removed from some restrooms and replaced with paper towel dispensers because air dryers can keep particles containing viral material airborne and circulate them around the building. A toilet flushing also creates some aerosolizing activity. 

The public restrooms in Acadia National Park are open, except the ones in the closed campgrounds and the closed picnic areas at Thompson Island and Bear Brook. The visitor centers at Hulls Cove and Sieur de Monts have moved some operations outdoors for safety, but visitors have access to indoor restrooms, according to park spokesperson Christie Anastasia. The information center at Thompson Island is run by a consortium of local chambers of commerce; its restrooms are not currently open to the public. 

In Bar Harbor, public restrooms weren’t open until late May, when visitors began flocking to the grocery store to use its restroom. 

A portable toilet was rented for several weeks while the public restroom at the corner of the public safety building near the Village Green remained closed because it shared an air handling system with the police and fire stations. The problem has been addressed and the regular restroom is now open. 

The public restrooms near the police station in Southwest Harbor are open. Even though Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden is open for the season, the town’s conservation commission that oversees the property opted not to open the restrooms in the newlyconstructed building there. 

At the beginning of the fishing and boating season in Southwest Harbor, town officials were hesitant to rent portable toilets for the Manset dock area because of COVID19. But during a recent meeting of the Board of Selectmen, they were informed those working out of the Manset dock area were doing their business around the property anyway, so they decided to reinstate the port-a-potty before it became too unpleasant. 

In Northeast Harbor, the public restrooms at the marina are open. The town is also paying for the rental, cleaning and supplying of two porta-potties behind the Great Harbor Maritime Museum. 

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