PROVIDENCE – In what’s becoming something of a head-scratching, senseless trend of vandalism, “one or more knuckleheads” chucked a universal-access portable toilet into Carbuncle Pond in Coventry and tipped the two other portable toilets there, according to the Department of Environmental Management.
This act had cascading consequences: depriving people with disabilities of access to a restroom, preventing the DEM from stocking the pond with fish for Veterans Day, destroying a $2,500 ADA-accessible toilet, and wasting time that could be spent improving DEM properties.
“Our mission is to maintain these special places for wildlife habitat and for the public — meaning, everyone in the public — to enjoy outdoor recreation,” DEM spokesman Michael Healey said in an email. “Vandalizing amenities for people with disabilities denies them opportunities and access that people who do not have disabilities take for granted.”
Healey pointed to another recent incident when vandals targeted the Tefft Hill ADA-accessible trail at Upper Roaring Brook in the Arcadia Management Area in March. The elevated walkway is so damaged that it can’t even be repaired and must be replaced, costing $40,000.
The DEM routinely deals with vandalism, like the dumping of trash, graffiti, damaging gates, locks, and docks, and removing signs. Two portable toilets were burned at Beach Pond in Exeter over the Fourth of July.
The incidents targeting accessibility are “particularly low and mean and we do not accept this behavior,” Healey said.
As for the most recent instance of it at Carbuncle Pond: The DEM believes that at some point after dark on Thursday, the aforementioned knucklehead or group of knuckleheads dumped the portable toilet into the pond. The toilet was seen floating about 50 feet off the dock, its vent pipe sticking out of the water like a horrifying snorkel.
Over the weekend, Healey said, someone – apparently some anglers – fished the toilet out of the pond, so to speak.
But DEM now won’t stock the pond with fish in honor of Veterans Day, as it’s doing for other areas. And though there’s no advisory against fishing there, the agency is advising against doing so for now. The agency will have to take water samples to see when it can stock there again.
“Carbuncle is a big pond and our portajohn vendor ensures us that the sanitizing solution used in the portajohn is eco-friendly, but to put it nicely, poop in a pond is a biohazard and we’re going to err on the side of discretion and not stock the pond,” Healey said.
Meanwhile people who suspect vandalism or dumping on DEM-managed property can contact the 24-hour dispatch center at (401) 222-3070.
“It’s up to all of us to protect our public lands so they can be enjoyed for future generations to come,” Healey said.