Car group works to add bathrooms to park

Published on Sunday, 23 February 2014 00:11 - Written by Betty Waters blw@tylerpaper.com

PALESTINE — A pitch spearheaded by a Palestine car club to gather community support for the construction of permanent restrooms in Davey Dogwood Park is gaining momentum.

Open year-round, the hilly 200-acre park is picturesque with winding roads through a wooded area of hardwoods and dogwoods. They are a blooming attraction during the Dogwood Trails celebration every spring.

Temporary port-a-potties are set up in the park during the three-week Dogwood Trails festival, but there are no restrooms the remainder of the year. Anderson County owns the park.

The county commissioners court tried unsuccessfully to obtain grants to fund permanent restrooms and then several years ago asked Cars of Palestine to lead a community drive to gain support for the project.

“It’s taken time to get off the ground,” said Sherry Kirkwood and Candis Wells, spokeswomen for Cars of Palestine, a nonprofit club organized in 1986. “We (club members) love to do community service projects as well as drive old cars.”

The club has roughly 45 member families interested in antique, classic and special interest cars, although owning a car is not a requirement for membership.

The club sponsors an annual car show, and they raise scholarship money for Anderson County high school seniors. Also, the group has food drives, toy drives and other benevolent projects.

In undertaking what the club calls the “potties in the park project,” car enthusiasts discovered that Davey Dogwood Park is “very under used” due to the lack of permanent restrooms, Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells said.

“We have known all along that our small club could not do it (provide restrooms) on our own. Our plan was to be the entity that kept (the project) before the community. We knew that it could only be accomplished with the help of the Palestine community and small surrounding towns,” they said in a joint statement.

Many groups, such as churches, organizations, family reunions, schools and other entities could use the park if it had restrooms. The club added restrooms could also boost tourism.

Club members know firsthand the inconvenience posed by the lack of restrooms since the club has a celebration in the park after its car show every year.

They have to load up to go to the nearest member’s house or a convenience store to find a restroom, Ms. Wells and Ms. Kirkwood said.

The club set out to raise money and to garner donations of labor and materials for construction of restrooms in the park. While the club is leading the campaign for funds and materials, it is a community project, Ms. Wells and Ms. Kirkwood stressed.

Plans drawn for construction of the restrooms in the park’s main area near a pavilion show an approximately 30 foot by 30 foot structure with one side designated for women’s restrooms and the other for men’s restrooms.

They would be built from donated haydite blocks with ends of the roof open for ventilation. Plumbing would be on interior walls to avoid freezing.

The women’s side would have three regular stalls, one handicapped stall and a couple of lavatories. The men’s side would have four urinals, a handicapped stall and a couple of lavatories.

It would be constructed accessible to the handicapped and meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The facility could be “quite an asset to the park,” Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells said.

To kick off the drive to arrange permanent restrooms, the club initially talked with city and county officials.

The city will probably run a waterline to the restrooms, while the county will probably take care of the restrooms, utilizing county inmates to help with maintenance of the facility and grounds and also furnish security, Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells said.

Cars of Palestine has secured donations valued at $5,300 for the site pad, $500 for the plans, $250 for concrete specifications; $3,750 for concrete blocks; $1,160 for transportation of the blocks and $5,000 cash. Students at Westwood Middle School raised $901 through a “pennies for potties” campaign.

“We are still far short of (being) ready to begin construction. We’re looking to other businesses, organizations and individuals to pitch in,” Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells said.

A minimum of $30,000 is needed for a septic system, plumbing and fixtures, Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells estimated.

“We are going to try to do it as streamlined as we possibly can,” they said. Monetary donations and materials are needed, they added.

Donations are needed for the metal roof, electrical supplies, paint, sidewalks, restroom fixtures, roof construction, electrical supplies, a slab, paint and mortar, landscaping, doors with hardware and installation and etcetera.

Arrangements to donate money, materials or services toward the project can be made by calling Ms. Kirkwood at 903-729-0403.

Checks earmarked for “potties in the park” may be sent to Cars of Palestine Inc., P.O. Box 2112, Palestine, Tx. 75802-2112.

Ms. Kirkwood and Ms. Wells said they hope donations come in fast enough for the restrooms to be constructed by 2015.