Most National Parks have Visitors Centers. At Scotty’s Castle our guests came to the Visitors Center to pay for entrance to the park or to pay for a tour of the Castle. At Chickamauga our guests come to the Visitors Center to get maps, ask questions, and see the movie. At Point Park our guests come to the Visitors Center to pay to enter the park and to see the James Walker mural.
But I recently realized the primary purpose of Visitors Centers: to provide restrooms. I know that doesn’t sound very glamorous or exciting, but it does seem to be the most important purpose of the Visitors Center, and it is true no matter which Visitors Center you visit. If we ranked all the questions we were asked by their frequency, “Where is the restroom?” would be the absolute first. It gets asked so much at Point Park that we joke we should have a button we can push that says “through that door and 30 feet to the left.” The Point Park Visitors Center got painted in August and they didn’t get the restroom signs put up until last week. As soon as the signs were put up, the number of questions we got asked at the desk dropped by half.
Think about it. If you are going to a national park and you travel a couple of hours to get there, visiting the restroom is your first priority upon arrival. Yesterday we went to Kennesaw Mountain National Military Park and the first thing we did upon arrival was go to the restroom. We also visited the restrooms a second time before we left the park.
The maintenance and custodial staff at National Parks work hard to keep the restrooms clean and fresh for the visitors. One of the custodians here at CHCH, Bob, prides himself on having the cleanest restrooms in town. He understands the purpose of Visitors Centers. Last week we had a gentleman with dementia visit the park. He left souvenirs of his visit all over the men’s room. Boy, was it stinky! It made the main lobby of the Visitors Center smell. I tried calling Bob, but he had left to clean up at Point Park. I tried other maintenance people but they were at lunch. Finally I called a Law Enforcement Ranger, who declared it a maintenance emergency and got people on it right away.
The restrooms may not be what you think of when you visit a national park, but we know the importance of having them for your comfort. And we pledge to provide clean, functional toilets when you come to visit. We understand the true needs of the guests and the most important purpose of the Visitors Centers.