The Forest City Parks and Rec Board decided to make the restrooms at the Pammel Park ball fields gender-specific, rather than be unisex.
The question came up after a woman filed a complaint with City Hall after she saw her daughter go into the restroom and a man come out of the same restroom.
Both restrooms at the ball field are currently unisex, though one has two stalls with toilets and the other has one toilet stall and a urinal.
The restrooms in question were retrofitted to the old building, and they just had the toilets and sinks put in the small spaces that barely fit the two stalls, according to Board Chairperson Chad Reece.
According to board member Missy Reynolds, the same question had come up a couple years ago when the Iowa's gender laws were enacted, and instead of dealing with gender-specific bathrooms they had decided to make them both unisex.
Board secretary Jen Conrad said she thought it was weird when she took her daughter to the restroom and saw the restrooms were unisex, especially since the stalls inside are not full stalls.
“It kind of sets us up for a liability … because anybody can say something happened but at the same time there are parent supervision issues there as well, but I just feel like there could potentially be issues with that, after seeing it and experiencing it myself,” she said.
Conrad said it was a weird situation and she wasn’t prepared for a man to walk in the same restroom she and her daughter were in, but she wasn’t overly concerned because she was in there with her daughter.
In other towns, if there are two stalls in the restrooms, then they’re gender separated and if there’s only one toilet and sink in the restrooms then it’s unisex, according to Conrad.
Reece said they had two options: either leave the restrooms as unisex and put up unisex signs or change them back to being men’s and women’s restrooms.
Reynolds supported leaving the restrooms unisex and simply putting up the extra signage, but the other board members were in favor of making the restrooms gender-specific.
“You go into a bathroom, you lock the door,” she said.
After the board decided to revert the restrooms to men’s and women’s, the restrooms at other parks, such as Boman and Merrick, were pulled into question on whether they should be gender-specific as well to keep it consistent throughout the parks.
Both Boman and Merrick parks have two restrooms, but the restrooms are singles with no stalls.
In the end, the board chose to be park-specific and made only the restrooms at Pammel Park gender-specific and let the other park restrooms be unisex.
“In my mind, if they’re single stall, single, the unisex thing is probably an easy thing to do,” Reece said.
Park Superintendent Todd Espeland will purchase the appropriate signage for all three park restrooms, one set of men’s and women’s and two sets of unisex signs.
Grace Zaplatynsky covers Hancock and Winnebago counties. You can reach her at Grace.Zaplatynsky@GlobeGazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0534.
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