The City of Toronto says it has more than doubled the number of winter park washrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for access to washrooms across the city.
The 79 additional washrooms are on top of the 64 that are usually available throughout the winter months, totalling 143 public washrooms, the city said.
The move comes as access to washrooms has been limited for residents since indoor dining remains shuttered and many other businesses have closed their washrooms to the public.
Officials said most of the city park washrooms are not winterized as they were not designed or constructed for winter use and most are closed by Thanksgiving weekend.
The city said the washrooms lack insulated plumbing and sufficient electrical for heating and must be closed ahead of winter to avoid pipes freezing and bursting from the colder temperatures.
An inspection of the city’s park washrooms shows about 28 of them can be kept open, and some needed minor retrofits, the city said.
Washrooms will be available in outdoor activity areas such as outdoor skating rinks, the city said. Winter accessible public washrooms are also available in community recreation centres, libraries and city-owned buildings throughout Toronto, the city added.
Other locations include washrooms at golf courses, fieldhouses and stadiums “that are not normally kept open through winter months,” city officials said.
Portable toilets will be deployed to 51 high-use locations where winter activities will occur, the city said.
The city said it is working on a list and map of the available washrooms that will be available on its website. The city also said it will be releasing outdoor options for activities in the coming days.
“This more than doubling of access to public washrooms in parks throughout the winter will be of great benefit to residents who will want to safely enjoy the outdoors more often,” Mayor John Tory said.
“We know the increase in park use during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue and it is essential that the City provide services that support these changes in behaviour.”