Oversharing is caring

There’s something stinky at Sycamore Pool and it’s that the city won’t hire enough park workers

The last time I used a public restroom was on a drive to Merced to visit my grandfather. It was just me and my 3-year-old son, Henry, on the nearly four-hour road trip. I was a little fatigued, so I pulled up to a drive-through and ordered an iced tea I hoped would perk me up.

It did a great job of keeping me awake. A side effect, however, was that the urge to pee came on strong about an hour or so into the trip and I couldn't avoid heading into a rest stop. With no one to watch Henry, I had to take him in with me.

It was a nightmarish situation most moms can relate to. The stalls in the restrooms off this stretch of I-5 were grimy. Only one of them was fit for use and none had seat covers. What's worse is that Henry was freaked out and kept trying to sit on the floor. This meant I had to “levitate” while holding both of his wrists with my left hand, and wipe with my right. How's that for a visual?

The sinks had soap dispensers, but they were empty. I washed with water and, back at the car, popped open a miniature bottle of hand sanitizer and drenched our hands.

There's a point to me oversharing here. It's because I just learned that the city of Chico, until recently, didn't provide soap in public restrooms—at least not the ones in city parks. The only reason soap is being provided now is because of a state Health Department provision that requires it be available at sites with pools. That means the restrooms at One-Mile get soap and so too do those at City Plaza, where the fountain qualifies as a pool-like feature.

I'd never noticed this deficiency because my office is located smack dab between Lower Bidwell Park and City Plaza. When nature calls, I go there.

Speaking of gross stuff, check out Howard Hardee's news story on the state of Sycamore Pool. City officials say the level of fecal coliform in the water doesn't exceed unsafe levels. Community members have concerns, though, and we can't blame them, considering what's been found there this summer. (Also, before there was soap at One-Mile, where do city officials think people washed their hands?)

Over the past couple years the city stopped its weekly pool-cleaning schedule in favor of every other week. Officials acknowledge that the Park Division is understaffed, but the narrative being played up these days is that the cement swimming hole is clean enough for two weeks. Tell that to the swimmers who photographed a condom floating in there recently or the folks who found a used syringe.

Fact is, more people are using the pool than ever before. Common sense says cleaning it less often is a bad call. Once again, we're seeing the effects of a budget that provides too few park staffers to do a weekly scrubdown of a pool in a city whose best feature is its giant green space.

That certainly stinks.

Melissa Daugherty is editor of the CN&R