Alexandria celebrated the solution to a problem that has faced the city for decades - a lack of public restrooms in the downtown area.

A project to build restrooms in Big Ole Central Park, the trailhead for the Central Lakes Trail, was completed this spring.

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To mark the occasion, city council members, park employees and city staff, Chamber of Commerce representatives and others gathered at the site Wednesday, June 19, but not for a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony.

This was the city's first-ever "toilet paper cutting" ceremony. Alexandria City Council member Todd Jensen, filling in for Mayor Sara Carlson, used a big scissors to cut through a roll of toilet paper to officially open the new facility.

The restroom project, including fees and sewer connection charges, cost about $106,000. Tradesmen Construction of Alexandria was the contractor.

The restrooms are heated and will be open year-round. To accommodate those who use the trail early in the morning, the restrooms will open at 5 a.m. An automatic mechanism locks the doors at 10 p.m.

City Administrator Marty Schultz noted that when he was growing up in Alexandria, the dirt road that would later become Second Avenue and the location for the Big Ole Central Park was mainly a place where people would get rid of their junk.

But after the road was built in 2004 to serve as a detour while Third Avenue was reconstructed, "piece by piece," Schultz said, the area has been transformed into a beautiful park. It includes trail access, a kiosk with maps and information, an art sculpture, the "Rotary Pier" public dock, and now, restrooms.

"It's really neat to see this project continue," said Schultz, adding that partnerships helped make it happen.

Bill Thoennes, park director, said bringing the restroom idea to completion took a long time.

"It's been in the budget for many years," he said. "This is a great addition to the north end of downtown."

Thoennes also credited partnerships for helping improve the park area, such as the Alexandria Rotary Club's support for building the fishing pier near the park on the south shore of Lake Agnes. He added the club will be holding a dedication for the pier next Thursday that will include the unveiling of a new sign.