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New Hike & Bike Trail Toilet Celebrates With a First Flush

Runners and bikers can breathe a sigh of relief – now that they can relieve themselves in a brand new, site-specific restroom on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail.

The new restroom features stylized concrete and carefully placed rebar. But it’s also sited on one of the most populated sections of the trail – the Johnson Creek trailhead, just below the MoPac bridge.

“That area is key because about a third of the people that use the trail start at that area,” says Susan Rankin, executive director The Trail Foundation, which oversaw the push for the restroom as part of improvements to Johnson Creek. “That’s a lot of people if you consider that three to 15 thousand people a day use the public trail at Lady Bird Lake.” The restroom got its “first flush” this weekend.

The restroom was a partnership years in the making, with Studio 8 Architects designing the facility and Sabre Commercial constructing. Jonathan Pearson of Studio 8 helped design the facility. He said designers wanted to evoke the aesthetic of the surrounding environment, with layered concrete and kelly green rebar mimicking the limestone and prairie grass that ply the trail.

“We needed to demonstrate that we could build something for private use that was a very public function,” Pearson said. “So that’s how we arrived at the design we did where we kind of only have two walls, and the rest is captured by a rebar fence.”

The site features an open-air wash station visible to passers by – designed in part for safety concerns, but also to deters those on the trail that may be loitering.

And then there’s the loo itself.

“One thing that I like about those restrooms is that the stall wall doesn’t meet the ceiling,” Rankin says. “So when you’re in there, you see the open sky and the freeway and it feels very open and clean and airy. What the designer did was really create a unique space out there.”

With the Johnson Creek restroom’s resilient aesthetic, Austin may have found its answer to the Portland Loo. But the facility isn’t The Trail Foundation’s first boutique bathroom.

In 2008, the foundation opened an American Institute of Architects award-winning restroom at the junction of Rainey Street and Lady Bird Lake Trail. Designed by Miro Rivera Architects, it also features a site-specific design with concentric, rusted steel slats surrounding the restroom, and matching the granite trail on the path.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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