By Becky Ewing
A new toilet building was installed at Brazil Creek Trailhead during the last week of June and it has gotten rave reviews thus far.
Restoring restroom facilities at this site was never a sure thing and the story can give visitors some insight into the challenges of managing Mark Twain National Forest recreational facilities.
Periodically, the Forest Service evaluates its recreation facilities, their conditions, the use the facilities receive, and the capability of the agency to maintain them – both funding and employees.
A little over a decade ago, a recreation facilities master plan was completed for Mark Twain National Forest.
The recreation facilities master plan called for the removal of amenities from what was then known as Brazil Creek Campground, such as picnic tables and the restroom, and for the site to be managed only as a trailhead.
In the mid-2000s, the Forest Service removed the campground amenities and has since maintained it as the northern-most access point for the Berryman Trail, which connects to the Ozark Trail – both of which are designated as national recreation trails.
Over the years, use of Brazil Creek Trailhead increased. More and more organized groups began to seek special use permits for recreation events on Berryman Trail and Ozark Trail.
Most of these events involve endurance or long-distance horse riding, mountain bike riding, or running events, and Brazil Creek Trailhead is often used as a checkpoint or aid station.
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In addition, Brazil Creek Trailhead is the closest access point to the trails for people coming down to Mark Twain National Forest from the St. Louis metro area.
The increased use and lack of restroom facilities developed into a public health and safety concern, as well as an environmental concern. Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District managers sought permission to re-install restroom facilities at the trailhead.
Doing so went against the recreation facilities master plan, so permission needed to be granted by the Forest Supervisor, and in 2015, it was.
Funding was the next hurdle. Pre-cast concrete vault toilets, with installation, can run upwards of $30,000. The project sat on the shelf until mid-summer 2018 when the Forest Service’s Eastern Region Office announced a request for proposals for some leftover funds.
Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District Recreation Manager Chris Woods drafted a proposal, got it approved by the Forest Supervisor’s staff in Rolla, Mo., and submitted it to the regional office staff in Milwaukee, Wisc.
The exciting news came a couple months later – the Brazil Creek toilet project had been funded!
Wet weather during fall, winter, and spring delayed the delivery and installation of the toilet building, but conditions improved for a June installation date.
The toilet building came in three pieces on a flatbed truck and a crane was needed to move the sections and connect them. By the end of summer, the grass seed will have sprouted and grown and covered the disturbed areas around the building.
The Brazil Creek toilet project may have taken nearly five years from start to finish, but in the end, patience by trail users and Forest Service recreation managers was rewarded.
(Becky Ewing is the district ranger for the Mark Twain National Forest, Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)