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'Sweet smelling' bathrooms to make debut in Cook County forest preserve

Thursday, November 07, 2013
Chicago Tribune
by Jennifer Delgado

There will be no need to pinch your nose or hold your breath inside the new bathrooms at the Bremen Grove Forest Preserve near south suburban Oak Forest.

The modern-day outhouse that will be installed in the next few weeks boasts the U.S. Forest Service's "sweet smelling" technology, a feature that minimizes odor by increasing ventilation. A similar facility will also be built at the Maple Lake East site in the Palos Preserves next spring.

"These are not people's great grandparents' outhouses," said Chris Slattery, director of planning and development for the Cook County Forest Preserve District. "Even if they don't smell like gardenias, they don't stink."

Each $41,000 non-flush facility faces prevailing winds and has vents in the walls that draw air in and large stacked vent pipes that push the air out, Slattery said. The black pipes also attract the sun's rays, which heat the pipes, drawing odor out.

The near 200-square-foot buildings will have two separate toilets and be open year-round.

Forest preserve officials decided to place the non-flush toilets, also called vault toilets, in heavily trafficked areas where plumbing, water and electric are difficult to access, Slattery said. The agency could add more of the modern outhouses in the future, depending on the budget.

As part of the upgrades, the Forest Preserve District will also add new restrooms to eight other sites in spring. Unlike the vault toilets, those restrooms will have plumbing but close for the winter.

"We know that having access to clean restrooms is a really important part of the visitor experience," said Karen Vaughan, forest district spokeswoman. "It makes a difference to people, and they tell us that."

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