Community Services proposes unique year-round washroom concept for Little Red River Park

A rendering of the proposed year-round washrooms for Little Red River Park made out of a modified shipping container. -- City of Prince Albert photo.

The City of Prince Albert may be bringing a unique concept to Little Red River Park this summer, with the inclusion of a year-round accessible public washroom for park guests created from a converted shipping container.

Parks and Open Spaces Manager Tim Yeaman presented the out-of-the-box concept to members of Council during Tuesday’s Executive Committee meeting, where he explained how the Community Services Department landed on the unique recommendation.

During the City’s last budget deliberations, Council approved $210,000 for top priorities for Little Red River Park during the 2023 operating year, which included new washrooms in the park and a warm-up shelter.

Back in February/March, Community Services began to explore available washroom concepts and reached out to other communities and companies that may offer different options.

The department’s original plan was to develop compostable washrooms, but the company Yeaman was dealing with stopped communications, forcing him back to square one.

In the end, Community Services found success in connecting with Saskatoon-based company, The Container Guy, that specializes in converting Sea-Cans into usable space.

CEO of The Container Guys, Channing McCorriston, was featured on season five of Dragons Den, where he was looking for investment into his company that created durable temporary office solutions, which he co-created with two other students from Saskatoon.

“Since that time, Mr. McCorriston has moved on from ‘3Twenty Modular’ and forged ahead with the creation of The Container Guys, expanding on those early days and taking the container modification industry to new heights,” Yeaman wrote in his report to Council. “They are an industry leader and have completed thousands of modification projects in virtually every major industry and their methods are being adopted by people all over the world as the industry standard.”

During discussions with The Container Guys, Yeaman realized that their “wish list” for the original washroom concept would cost in excess of $100,000.

A Request for Proposals was then sent out in the beginning of May to see if the department could garner interest from other vendors, which Yeaman said saw two other contractors bid on the project. The pricing provided by the two other companies exceeded $200,000 per proposal, putting them both out of reach for the project.

“Even going through the evaluation process, the washrooms were 80 plus per cent higher than the lowest bid, which also drew some concern on our part because we had limited budget to work with,” said Yeaman.

After going back to the drawing board, Community Services and The Container Guys came up with the concept of turning a 40-foot shipping container into year-round accessible public washrooms while staying within the City’s budget.

Also included in the design is a utility room, a storage room, a septic and clean water holding tank, as well as wrapping the front of the shipping container for aesthetic purposes.

“This by far is probably one of the most unique projects we’ve strived to complete within Little Red River Park,” noted Yeaman.

The facility will be built off-site and delivered to Little Red, with the City only needing to connect the building to power for immediate use. According to Yeaman, the washrooms will not be open to the public 24/7. They will only be open during park hours and locked after the park closes.

Yeaman noted some complex issues that guided the department’s search for different year-round washroom concepts that meet the needs of the park.

“Little Red is unique in nature,” said Yeaman. “We certainly had some struggles out there.”

A few of the hurdles they needed to overcome included the possibility of flooding in the park’s core area and the lack of supporting infrastructure like water, sewer, and power.

Yeaman said that for a cost of $1,500, power can be brought to the site to allow for motion sensor lights and year-round heating and cooling inside the facility.

Bringing power to the location also allows for the City to move forward with adding security cameras at the front of the park and being able to operate the snow gun at the toboggan hill.

The washrooms would replace the outhouse near the toboggan hill to service the high demand in the location. However, the modified shipping container will be placed on screw piles to allow for movement to other areas of the park if needed in the future.

The converted Sea-Can washrooms could be just one of five washrooms park-wide that Community Services may be looking to develop in the future, and it’s also the largest one that the department has planned.

Yeaman said the department would consider developing similar, yet smaller year-round washrooms near the northwest parking lot location, as the area sees lots of traffic from the 700 members of the Prince Albert Nordic Ski Club. Seasonal use washrooms could also be placed in the areas near the swinging bridge, the horseshoe and the upper east plains.

“With all the great improvements that are going on out there, we see this as a real need,” added Yeaman.

The recommendation to award The Container Guys with the contract services of supply, construction and install of the new washrooms will be brought forward to a future City Council meeting for final approval before the Community Services Department can begin to work with the company on the construction process.

If approved, the projected delivery date for the new washrooms will be at the end of August or early September of 2023.