Visitors to the Coventry Regional Farmers Market, at the Nathan Hale Homestead, will soon have an alternative to the portable facilities already provided by the market.
Officials with Connecticut Landmarks, which owns the homestead at 2299 South St., announced that market-goers will be able to use homestead’s new bathrooms – if they become “friends” of the homestead.
The offer will not, however, take effect until mid-July and it comes with a price tag.
A new “Friends of the Homestead” program will officially launch in mid-July at a cost of $25. Benefits include a 10 percent discount on items in the new museum store, free access to the homestead and its tours throughout the season – and use of the homestead’s bathrooms.
Connecticut Landmarks Executive Director Sheryl Hack said the new program was slightly delayed while awaiting Friends of the Homestead pins.
Since the market re-opened for the season this month, for the past three Sundays, the bathrooms at the homestead had been open and used by both museum visitors and market attendees.
Last week, Connecticut Landmarks had said it would begin locking its bathrooms for market goers and only open them for museum patrons who pay the museum’s regular admission fee.
“This is our response,” Hack said Friday (June 22).
Hack noted, however, that the homestead will continue to allow access to the restrooms for any handicapped person.
Connecticut Landmarks Education and Historic Sites Operations Manager Cynthia Cormier said the bathrooms were open the first few weeks because the agency didn’t know how many people would use them.
Hack said the new system was designed for only “250 flushes a day.”
Hack estimated with 1,000 to possibly 3,000 flushes each Sunday, the homestead could destroy its new septic tank a month into this year’s season.
She said the homestead could never have afforded a septic tank with the capacity for so many flushes.
Addressing the problem, however, has opened up an opportunity to boost financial support for the homestead. The “Friends of the Homestead” program will be “a vehicle for community members, market-goers and everyone else to support the property,” Hack said.
Hack confirmed each dollar from the new $25 program would go directly back to the homestead site.
The homestead received $500,000 from the state in 2004 for renovations that included bathrooms and a visitors’ center, and another $750,000 for renovation of the two historic Hale barns.
State Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, called the new “Friends of the Homestead: program “very interesting.”
“I like the overall idea, in terms of discounting prices and helping out Connecticut Landmarks,” Ackert said. On the other hand, he said he’s concerned about people essentially paying to use the new bathrooms.
Ackert said he has reached out to Connecticut Landmarks about the issue but hadn’t received a response as of last Friday.
“This just doesn’t sit well,” Ackert said. “I will continue to look into this to make it the best for everybody.”
Farmers Market Executive Director Winter Caplanson said the market has ordered a handicapped-accessible portable toilet to join the two portable toilets already provided for market visitors.
Caplanson said CT Portables in Chaplin was going to add an additional portable toilet in time for the June 24 market day.
Caplanson said she isn’t worried about more bathroom-related problems for the market.
“I think it will settle down,” she said.
The market, which is overseen by the Bridges Healthy Cooking School, a 501c3 nonprofit, generates sales exceeding $500,000 every year and draws more than 75,000 visitors annually.
The market is open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Posted June 25, 2012 as edited by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
Related link: Coventry Regional Farmers Market http://coventryfarmersmarket.com
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