With nowhere to go, Bloomington beachgoers just went

A rare hot weekend after a bathhouse was locked for the season led some Bush Lake visitors to make do on parkland.

Bathers let it all hang out at Bloomington's Bush Lake Beach a couple of weeks ago, changing clothes out in the open and urinating and defecating on nearby parkland when they discovered beach bathrooms had been closed for the season.

The city routinely closes the bathhouse, which has restrooms and changing rooms, after Labor Day, but about 150 people flocked to the beach each day on the unusually hot weekend of Sept. 10 and 11. Now, the city isn't taking any chances and is keeping the restrooms open daily until Oct. 16.

"It was an unfortunate situation; we made a mistake and we have corrected that mistake," Bloomington Parks and Recreation Manager Randy Quale said Tuesday.

He discovered what happened when he came to work the following Monday to four complaining phone messages and e-mails. Bathrooms in the bathhouse near the beach were reopened as soon as city staff learned what went on, he said.

Beachgoers were just doing the best they could under the circumstances, he said. People who were changing tried to hide behind buildings and bushes, and there were no complaints to police.

"It was 90-degree weather and people wanted to swim," Quale said.

Asked if the area had to be cleaned up, he said maintenance staff members were asked to check the site for "droppings."

In recent years, doors to the bathhouse have been unlocked in the morning and locked at night by electronic timers during swimming season. After the Labor Day weekend, city maintenance staff had turned those timers off without letting parks and recreation know, Quale said.

He said lifeguards are pulled from the beach in mid-August, and staff members were worried about vandalism with fewer city workers around. The bathhouse is unheated and is always shut in fall and winter because water does not run to those buildings then.

But with the sunny, hot weather, "they should have been left open," Quale acknowledged.

"Well over 150 people" came to the beach both days on the weekend of Sept. 10-11, according to the city manager's weekly update to City Council members.

"Staff received reports of people urinating and defecating on parklands adjacent to the beach, and adults changing their clothes in view of other beach users," the update said. "One beach patron indicated that she experienced a skin rash and became ill with an upset stomach after swimming in Bush Lake this weekend."

Bathrooms in a park shelter about 400 yards away from the beach were open, but visitors may not have known that, Quale said.

A chemical toilet is on site and will remain there until the bathhouse reopens in the spring.

Bloomington's environmental health department tried to contact the woman who complained of illness after visiting the beach, but she did not respond to three phone calls from the city, said Lynn Moore, division manager.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380

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