North Topeka neighborhood furious following demolition of historic restroom

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Residents in one North Topeka neighborhood are furious with Shawnee County leaders.

They’re furious that a fixture of their local park was demolished despite all their best efforts to save it.

They’re especially frustrated county leaders didn’t listen, so now, they’re making an even bigger statement.

Although it may not look like much, President of the North Topeka West NIA, Teresa Miller explains, “This is the Lifeline of the community. This park gets used for family reunions, for baby showers, for birthday parties and things like that all the time”

It’s their park. A safe place for their kids to come play without crossing Topeka Boulevard.

Even the restrooms that used to stand here were part of that.

After vandals trashed them last spring, neighbors say they struggled to convince the county to fix it.

“We had the money to help fix it up, and that’s what I don’t understand. The money was there, it could have been fixed, it could have been fine,” said Miller.

“I don’t think it changes the overall factor of are restrooms appropriate in a park that’s the size of less than an acre and is that the best use of taxpayer dollars whether it’s grant money or operating budget,” said Terry Bertels of Shawnee County Parks and Recreation.

That’s why the county bulldozed them Wednesday.

“I was very nauseated. Very upset. I actually felt like they violated me, personally,” said Miller.

Situated right by what used to be an all-black school from the days of segregation, community members say the county has destroyed a piece of history.

“It is the people from Brown vs. the Board that used this park. There’s a lot of black families who’ve been here for generations that have used this park. So to me it’s a slap in everyone of their faces,” said Miller.

“They certainly had no historical distinction, they were bathrooms,” said Bertels.

Facilities the neighborhood is now determined to get back.

“I’m done. I’m to the point that I’m seriously thinking about legal action against this, because to me they just basically told the neighborhood, we’re not listening to you. We’re going to do what we want and we don’t care about you. That’s the message they’re giving us,” said Miller.

County park officials tell KSNT News they do plan to put in a standing water fountain where the restrooms once stood.

Neighbors say they are grateful to have a water fountain put in, but they still want the restrooms back.

Now Miller is considering contacting the NAACP and talking to a lawyer.

According to Bertels, it’s a national standard that parks smaller than one acre do not have full restroom facilities available to the public.

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