Where people who are active outdoors in the Adirondack Park go to the bathroom is of concern to all of us. Human waste – and don’t think it doesn’t happen on mountaintops, lakeshores, and any peaceful wooded area — can pollute water bodies and ruin the nature experience for other hikers.
One way to solve the problem is better education about poop etiquette. Bury it or carry it out. Better yet, go before you enter the woods.
The Ausable River Porta-John project is making that easier. Started 10 years ago, it expanded to the High Peaks last year. It now has eleven Porta-Johns at popular locations throughout the region (See map here) and is seeing good results, as in fewer incidences of poop and toilet paper left behind.
“It’s really a success,” said Brendan Wiltse, science and stewardship director for the Ausable River Association. The High Peaks region, he added, “is a lot cleaner and more beautiful because of it.”
But this spring, based on the success and usage of the Porta-Johns, the Department of Environmental Conservation asked that the Porta-Johns on state lands (seven of the eleven) be upgraded to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those are larger – and more expensive to rent.
Many of the businesses sponsoring the current program were unable to absorb the cost. Wiltse said they are waiting to see whether the state can help defray some of the cost because the program won’t be able to continue at its current level without additional money.
In the meantime, the program turned to crowd-funding.
Now we all can be part of this solution with a donation as little as $5 to the Porta-John Fund on the Adirondack Gives page (Donate here!), which is the way Wiltse would like to see it go. The campaign began about a week ago and, with 50 days to go, had already collected $882.50 toward its $4,000 goal.
“I’d really love if we could have 1,000 people give $5 each so they feel like they’re part of the solution,” he said. “It seemed like a good fit for something people are aware of, and a lot of people use the facilities, so were hoping some of the hiking crowd might be willing to contribute to it. The service benefits tens of thousands of people.”
The Porta-John program began with a few of the plastic outhouses along the west branch of the Ausable River to help deter people from going to the bathroom in the open near the river (a problem especially during Ironman and fly-fishing season). Later the program expanded to popular trailheads near the High Peaks. Some of the Porta-Johns are available Victoria Day (May 23) through Columbus Day; others are out Victoria Day through Labor Day. The association shared the locations with the Ironman organizers, even making a map.
Over the years, people have become used to where the facilities are, so they can wait to go until they reach one. And one Porta-John at Cascade, Wiltse points out, equals 100 gallons of waste not being deposited anywhere else on the mountain.
Photos of new ADA-approved facility along with the traditional size at Cascade Mountain. Educational materials about how to be responsible about waste is posted on the front of the Porta-John. Photos by Tracy Ormsbee