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Restrooms officially open at park

City leaders officially opened the public restrooms at Big Ole Central Park with a toilet paper cutting ceremony. They include (left to right) city council members Dave Benson, Bill Franzen and Roger Thalman, Parks Director Bill Thoennes, City Administrator Marty Schultz, council member Todd Jensen and Communications Coordinator Sara Stadtherr. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 3
City officials, employees, Chamber of Commerce representatives, economic development leaders and others gathered for a ceremony to open the new public restrooms in Big Ole Central Park. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 3
Landscaping touches were recently added to the public restrooms at Big Ole Central Park. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 3

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.

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.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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