Give porta-potties a chance

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To the Editor:

The Oak Bluffs Citizens Beach Committee has been exploring the question of a trial usage of seasonal toilet facilities on the Oak Bluffs Town Beach. This topic was initially raised by Richard Seelig during the “comments” portion of the June 17 parks commission meeting. When he was advised to bring the matter to the select board, the issue was discussed as part of the agenda at their July 9 meeting, including a lively discussion with input from Oak Bluffs citizens and business owners, select board members, and the parks commissioner. The final outcome directed the issue back to the parks commission; therefore, a request was made to add the discussion to the agenda of the next parks meeting on July 15. Disappointingly, this request was denied, despite a scant agenda. At the very brief parks meeting on July 15, it was announced that a follow-up meeting would be scheduled for August 5.

Kathy Laskowski’s original letter to the board of selectmen and the board of health on July 8 requested a trial use of porta-potties on a section of Town Beach. Follow-up information from a trial use would inform whether to continue use of these facilities. Citizens have expressed a clear desire for these in the most recent Oak Bluffs Master Plan, based on public input last summer. Action step No. 5 in the Master Plan includes the position that the town should investigate opportunities to add amenities at Pay Beach and Inkwell Beach such as seasonal porta-potties.

We just learned that the board of health plans to discuss this letter at their meeting on July 23. We understand that the board of health is interested in maintaining a safe and sanitary beach environment, and we appreciate that they want to consider whether bathroom facilities contribute to the safety and comfort of beachgoers. 

We have also heard from owners of guesthouses near the beach who have been unfairly imposed upon by desperate beachgoers. The lack of bathroom facilities on a popular public beach seems to be a problem in need of a solution.

The great advantage of small-town government is that its citizens have the opportunity for their concerns to be readily heard and quickly acted upon. We know that many fellow citizens share our concerns. We hope that they will come to the August 5 meeting to share their insights and opinions. We believe the addition of a few well-maintained toilet facilities will be a benefit to residents and visitors alike, improving sanitary conditions on our beaches. We encourage our town leaders to take the initiative to improve the public health of our beaches and the experiences of all those who love to use them. 

                                                                                                                                                                                               

Kathy Laskowski, Renee Nolan, Caroline Hunter
Oak Bluffs