I’m Tired of Folks Saying Restrooms Are Unsightly

When will the general public realize how lucky they are to have portable sanitation?

I’m Tired of Folks Saying Restrooms Are Unsightly

Portable restrooms are practical, functional and look nice in a busy waterfront park in Duluth, Minnesota. (Photos by Jim Kneiszel)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When a PRO passes a portable restroom along the side of the road, you see a handsome moneymaker for your company. When others see this restroom, they recoil at the thought of what takes place inside the unit. Unfortunately, there are a small number of people who see the practical beauty of a restroom and a huge population of people who see a blight on the landscape.

We need to work on changing this perception.

Take the folks in Conway, New Hampshire, for instance. Their town sounds like a wonderful place adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest. They enjoy being near the trail encircling Echo Lake, visiting nearby waterfalls and the Conway Scenic Railroad’s vintage trains and Victorian station. Picture postcard views all around.

But when they see a portable restroom in a park, the citizens of Conway hit the roof. That’s all it takes to get them riled up.

“I think it’s ugly to centralize them in the park,” town manager Tom Holmes said during a meeting with Conway selectmen. As reported in the Conway Daily Sun, Holmes called 15 units at Schouler Park an “eyesore,” and said, “We are trying to come up with ideas to disperse them throughout the village.”

The board voted 5-0 to ban the use of portable restrooms at Schouler Park.


It is interesting to note that town officials said the units were too well-used during the pandemic as they served many new visitors to the quaint community. One of their chief complaints, aside from that they didn’t find the units pretty, is that the service providers couldn’t keep them clean enough because of their popularity.

So Conway officials’ answer was to either hide the units around town where nobody would see them and complain, or eliminate restroom service that seemed to be sorely needed.

What kind of solution is that? People are using the restrooms, so let’s get rid of them because they are unsightly! How about taking a different tack, like ordering more restrooms, more frequent service, and continue placing them where the public uses them?

Frankly, I am weary of residents in towns and cities across the country complaining when they see a portable restroom show up for a construction site, a community event or to provide relief for folks during the busy summer season. It happens so regularly I suspect potential complaints are on the minds of PROs every time they drop a restroom at a new, fairly visible location.

Let’s say you’re placing a unit in front of a home remodeling job in some ritzy neighborhood. Oh oh, will you be called out later today to move it behind a fence or away from the view of an unhappy neighbor? A call like this creates frustration for you and your crew and the resulting relocation adds labor to the day and takes profits off the table. And the sad part is you can’t accurately predict when one of these complaints is going to happen. You can make an educated guess, but it might happen when you least expect it.

When I was working in the newspaper business, we used to call these NIMBY complaints, as in Not In My Back Yard. What I found as a small-town newspaper editor and still find today is that a complaint from one disgruntled person can quickly be magnified in a public forum, such as a town board meeting.

As a wastewater publication editor, I find these situations not just with portable sanitation, but with the siting of private dewatering or treatment facilities, neighbors surrounding wastewater land-application sites, and grease trap service exhaust in urban settings.

What really irks me when folks raise a stink over wastewater services? That these people don’t understand the valuable service that is being provided. No, they only recognize their temporary sacrifice of seeing a restroom in the park or getting a whiff of exhaust from your tank.


Consider those folks in Conway, New Hampshire. Clean portable restrooms provide hospitality and make visitors to the town safer and more comfortable during their stay. Would they rather roll out the unwelcome mat and discourage families from coming and shopping at their retail establishments, eating at their restaurants and giving the economy a shot in the arm during a business-killing virus crisis?

Rather than complain, they should make sanitation services a priority and see these restrooms in a different light. They should work with their local portable sanitation contractors to devise plans to ensure enhanced service. And they should look at restrooms like you do, as an important public health tool.

And by the way, portable restrooms are not unsightly. They are the embodiment of practicality, a purpose-built product that does a necessary job effectively, efficiently and at a fair price. And no matter what anyone says in a public forum, know that you are appreciated here for doing a vital job.  


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