Signal Hill lacks bathroom access: mother

Barb Sweet
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Visitor’s centre offers no late-evening respite

A woman says she has seen people publicly urinating around Cabot Tower's parking area. — Telegram file photo

Karen Noel and her family have been spending a lot of time on Signal Hill this summer, but the St. John’s woman isn’t impressed with the washroom policies at the national site.

The St. John’s woman said her eight-year-old daughter, who suffers kidney reflux, was recently refused use of the washroom inside Cabot Tower because she was told it was for staff only.

In the middle of a walk, Noel had to put the family in her van and go to a nearby grocery store to let the little girl, who is on medication to prevent recurrent infections, use the bathroom.

Besides the view and recent full moon, the family is drawn to the hill because they are  trying to be more active.

The interpretation centre — halfway up the road to Cabot Tower — was closed at the time.

From mid-June to early September, the interpretation centre operates 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Meanwhile, Noel said she’s seen people publicly urinating against the walls around the parking area.

“We have been kind of disappointed the last couple of times,” Noel said Monday, noting this past weekend was when she saw party vehicles pull up and some women go over the wall and urinate in public view.

“It didn’t look very good. … To have no washroom is unreal.

“The kids witnessed this, too. And here my youngest daughter eight years old was turned away from the gift store. … It’s discouraged me from wanting to go up there.”

She’s also seen men turn their backs on the public, but said it’s obvious what they are doing.

Noel said with all the tourists around, it’s embarrassing.

“To see people coming out of expensive limousines and urinating doesn’t say much for St. John’s,” Noel said.

She said she’s never walked the full hiking trail because of the lack of facilities.

In an email response, Parks Canada said the small washroom in the basement of Cabot Tower can’t be made available to the public because of accessibility issues and space limitations.

Various options have been considered to provide fully accessible washrooms in or near the tower, but there isn’t room in the historic structure and it would not be appropriate to add on to it, the email stated.

“An additional challenge is the lack of a water supply to the top of Signal Hill.  All water used at the top of Signal Hill must be trucked and stored in tanks, making it impossible to ensure an adequate water supply for public washrooms at that location," spokesman Glenn Keough said in the email.

Organizations: Parks Canada

Geographic location: Signal Hill, Cabot Tower

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Recent comments

  • Disgusted
    July 31, 2013 - 07:21

    David, did you not read the article clearly stated that her 8 year old daughter suffers from a medical condition....kidney reflux......perhaps when the mother was getting her children ready to leave their house, her daughter did not feel the need to go to the washroom at that point....but during their walk did need to use the washroom and who is to say it was as soon as they left their vehicle!!! At this point, Mrs. Noel and her children could have been on their walk for 30 mins or more. This has nothing to do with her skills as a parent. Have you ever taken a child somewhere....ask that child did they need to use the washroom before you left only to get somewhere and the child say they now needed to pee??? This is 2013....many schools, daycares and senior homes take outings to Signal Hill....what is wrong with having bathroom facilities somewhere on the hill. Plus Signal Hill is highly advertised to tourists......should we expect them to spend money on Signal Hill yet tell them they need to leave the tower and go back down the hill should they need to use a washroom. This is 2013 for God's sake....not 1913!!!!!!!!

  • John Doe
    July 30, 2013 - 22:12

    I think they should have a open glass portapotie out at the edge of the cliff behind cabot tower.. Beautiful place to take in the scenery, while taking care of business

  • Bonnie
    July 30, 2013 - 15:32

    Someone tell Chatty Cathy,,, DUNDERDALE. To do what she is getting paid for by the . taxpayers of St. John's,,, ,,, She is so caught up in the oil industry,,, she has forgotten. Ab out the rest of her responsibilities

  • California Pete from NFLD
    July 30, 2013 - 12:58

    There never was one and there never will be one It is good for turisim to have proper facliyt's but after all just slide down the hill and do your thing. It use to be that all the smelly stuff went in to the harbor not to long ago or have you forgot

    • karen
      July 30, 2013 - 18:05

      if the goverment cared anything about health and health care ,, they wouldnt have historic places opened unless there were places for public to use the washrooms ,, yes its true about the harbour,, thats bad enouph to smell ,, but what happens when we start seeing toilet paper and fecies on the hiking trails or in the cannons because ppl got to go when they need to go,, unless they do it in their clothes . the centre below closes after 6pm ,, they changed the road up there to make the place more noticed,, but who will notice it if its not opened and no where to use the washroom only when they want to open.

  • HT
    July 30, 2013 - 11:42

    I visited there years ago, and as a sufferer of Crohn's, a washroom is of utmost importance. When I inquired about one, I was told that I would have to go to the GEO center or the Battery. I was in shock!

    • david
      July 30, 2013 - 13:50

      I hve a fear of heights, I don't like wind and I get seasick looking at the ocean....what should Parks Canada do for me ?

    • karen noel
      July 30, 2013 - 18:10

      i was shocked also HT,, knowing they rely on other buisinesses to take care of the dirty work ,, but they dont complain when the cruise ships come in and spends money on getting to see these places,, which makes me ask another question ,, where do they use the bathroom when they go to visit if the visitors centre is closed ,, i guess metro bus has their time set on the interpertation centres time for them ,, but for the ppl who live there ,, we are !!!! out of luck

  • Virginia Park
    July 30, 2013 - 11:41

    Parents often complain that children are oblivious to the cost of things. The common phrase is that 'they think money grows on trees'. But I think there are a lot of parents who suffer from the same lack of understanding when it comes to public spending. A couple of bathrooms on Signal Hill open 24/7 doesn't sound like a lot, but multiply it times a hundred or a thousand and throw in maintenance and security. Bathrooms in particular are prime targets for vandalism. Elsewhere in today's paper is a similar complaint against Parks Canada for not keeping up with the graffiti artists on the North Head bunkers. If they can't be steam cleaned every other day, he'd like them torn down. It isn't that I'm insensitive to people with problem bladders or to military historians who like things kept ship-shape, but I think we all need to give ourselves a shake when we get the urge to ask for yet another outlay of cash by government - any level of government. These small costs add up across a very large country to create a crushing debt that does a disservice to our children far more than the lack of a handy toilet or a whitewashed bunker. As a frequent user of the North Head trail and Ladies Lookout trails, I'm sometimes tempted to call Parks with my own list of demands. After a heavy rain there is the inevitable soil erosion such that the trails become more difficult and even a bit more dangerous. It often takes months for repairs, if any. The brush sometimes chokes off sections of the trail and then there are the stubby iron posts that protrude six or eight inches above the rock where guns once stood. I did ask a few years ago that the 'caution:danger' signs be replaced after they were removed by vandals. It was just prior to the death of a young many over the edge of the cliff - which might or might not have had anything to do with the lack of warning signs. Again a few years ago, Parks rerouted Signal Hill road to divert cars through its parking lot at the Interpretation Centre. It is widely believed this was a precursor to a new policy that would see visitors to the Hill charged a fee for entry. Thankfully there was a public outcry and Parks reluctantly put the idea on the back-burner. I say the back-burner - not the trash can - because I expect to see it re-emerge one day when they think the timing is right. Speaking as one Newfoundlander who has roamed the Hill for decades and who believes the ability to do so without charge is a birth-right, I will forever oppose the commercialization of that historic site. That said, I cannot in fairness then capriciously add to the demands on Parks Canada to the point where funding becomes a problem. No, I am satisfied to let it remain a rugged, rustic reminder of a past where people weren't equipped with all the modern inconveniences. If that means a few people are left to relieve themselves discretely on the other side of a fortification or if tourists must endure the transient spray-paint creations of a few teens, it is a price I'm prepared to pay. And since online confessions have apparently become all the rage in recent times, I will admit that I too have not been unknown to respond on rare occasions to the call of nature while trekking the Newfoundland and Labrador outback. Resilience, innovation and hardiness are after all hallmarks of the Newfoundland breed. Let's preserve that along with our history.

    • karen
      July 30, 2013 - 18:25

      i certainly can see your point " virginia park",, but if everyone has to feel free to releave themselves in front of ppl and children ,, that dont say much about things either,, if thats the case, i guess ppl will be doing what ever they need to do on the grass and on the areas that ppl visit,, and may eventually start leaving toilet tissue ect on the grounds ,, then the parks canada will complain or charge oppl for doing that. if its historic sites , a washroom or out house even with a pipe leading to the harbour could help even lol ,, they got security up there at night to keep watch on it if they are paid to do so. it is a hygene and heath concern and could lead to a big mess for ppl to be treading on in the future .

  • Paul O'Toole
    July 30, 2013 - 11:38

    Park a portable toilet ouside somewhere that will do the trick.

  • k
    July 30, 2013 - 10:26

    I believe this mother knew there was no washroom. Or was one for staff. Sonething to go on about. Porta potty, sure . something to be broken and strew over an area.Guess this is the only outside walk way.Investigate before you go . Should save time and useless chatter.

  • Disgusted with ParKs Canada
    July 30, 2013 - 09:29

    I was there twice & seen a bunch of preschoolers crying because they had to hold their pee & I also seen an older women pee in her clothes because of lack of washroom. Come on here Parks Canada, it 2013 we should have access to bathrooms for Gods sakes!!!! If you're too cheap to put in some Porta Potties, then build a couple of outhouses in the woods off the trails so ppl can enjoy the Signal Hill Trails & everything else it has to offer. Intead of having ppl literally have to go in their own clothes because they could not make it to either washroom sooner.

  • Corrina
    July 30, 2013 - 08:20

    I had a similiar experience when i was there awhile ago...i was pregnant and due anyday and we all know how small the bladder is at that point of your pregnancy, but I was turned away and had to go back down over the hill to find a bathroom...i have never been back to Signal Hill after that...I even begged them as I felt that I would not make it but they would not hear it

  • david
    July 30, 2013 - 07:57

    I remember my parents checking whether I needed to go to the bathroom every time we went anywhere in the car...has this skill been lost on the new generation of "parents"?

  • Katy
    July 30, 2013 - 07:54

    Porta Potty. C'mon Parks Canada: It's simple.

  • Earl
    July 30, 2013 - 07:09

    I recently emailed Parks Canada regarding washroom facilities at Cape Spear and received a similar response. Aside from the obvious vandalism problems that could arise, necessitating the presence of staff nearly around the clock, they also pointed out the fact that water to Cape Spear is trucked in as well. If someone were to leave a faucet running it could deplete the supply. Meanwhile, there still has to be a solution to these problems. Somehow.