Wednesday 19 November 2008

Toilets Supported By Wooden Blocks at Arches National Park Visitors Center Bathroom -- Why?

Arches National Park
Visitors Center Toilet
2282 Resource Blvd
Moab, UT USA

Where is it?

Drive into the park and after paying admission head to the Visitors Center, about a quarter mile past the entrance gate. Once there, walk through the outdoor exhibits (which include bronze statues of various wildlife that lives in the park, like mountain rams and such) and head towards the front entrance of the Visitors Center building.

Before reaching the entrance doors, look to your right and you'll see a small hallway in the side of the building that's about 15 feet back from the entrance. The bathrooms are down that hallway -- with signs indicating so.

What's it like?

This beautiful but somewhat overcrowded park in eastern central Utah is known mostly for its collection of natural arches, about 2000 or so are said to make their home here -- the largest concentration of natural arches in the world, as I understand.

In addition to the arches, the park also houses some amazing, rugged, hot, desert-red landscapes and rock formations, many of which rival Monument Valley in terms of shapes and grandeur. A true wonder showcasing the work of wind erosion and heat (very hot here, despite the elevation).

The Visitors Center is like any other national park center, with its array of geographic displays and science lessons. It's considerably more humble than some of the other Visitor Centers visited, a bit smaller, with only one gift shop, an information center, a small movie theater showing a looped informational video, the scientific displays and the bathrooms. If you're hungry, you're advised to bring your own food.

The bathrooms are definitely more complexly put together than the ones at Zion and Red Canyon, among others. These, unlike some of the other bathrooms visited at the U.S. national parks, can't really be classified as an outhouse, because they are entirely indoors with no apparent outdoor interference (no windows at all, actually) and don't seem to rely on mother nature at all in terms of ventilation or digestion of waste.

This is a long rectangular room, very simple in design. The back right half of the bathroom is filled with four toilet stalls, the final one in the corner being the handicap. Across from that is a string of five or so urinals -- those new SLOAN models that are of the no-flush, environmentally safe models (like what we saw at IKEA Orlando, Nona Sushi and Whole Foods South Orlando), which is a welcome turn considering that some of the other national park toilets lacked this option (I'm looking at you, Zion Visitors Center).

The front left corner houses the sink stations -- pretty bare bones set up, very Teutonic. About four sinks in all, no vanity, with unframed single-serve mirrors posted behind them and soap dispensers attached to each mirror. Faucets are automatic. Hand driers are to the left of the sink area.

This is a pretty crowded bathroom -- inside the park, there are fewer options, and those are all outhouses, so this is as comfortable as it gets for your stay. The place, because of this popularity, is pretty noisy and bustling as a result -- not a great place to make a quiet stop, that's for sure. But, as stated, it's not as open to the elements as the park's other options.

Because of the crowds, it's also a bit dirty. For example, while the urinals were of the no-flush variety, that didn't prevent each one from having a small pool of urine at their bases. Naturally, that urine lends a certain odor to the air as well.

The same could be said of the stalls, which had some puddling in them too. The walls here, by the way, are beige-painted concrete, and the floors are concrete but with a copper paint on them. That copper paint seems to make the spillage become more apparent, for some reason. I think a light-colored floor might have been a better option here.

Other than that, it's a pretty straight and narrow bathroom, save for one thing: All the toilets have wooden blocks around their piping. Not sure why this is so, to prevent freezing in the winter or whatnot, but it makes it look like all the toilets are held up by wooden blocks and lends a surprisingly primitive aspect to the design. What gives?

Marks out of 10:

6. Dirty and smelly, but considering your other options in the park, these are golden.

Comments to the Management:

You get a lot of traffic here, so it seems that you'd want to have the cleaning crew police the place a little more often, especially to clean up all the spillage. Plus, painting the floor a lighter color might make all that spillage less noticeable. And what's with the wooden blocks?

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