“Dig a hole if you need to poop” says Knokke-Heist Forest Ranger

As the weather improves and given that options for recreational activities are severely limited due to the coronavirus restrictions many of us are spending our free time enjoying a walk or a cycle ride. However, what happens if we are caught short? With public toilet facilities often very few and far between, bars closed and restaurants working on a take-away only basis we are often left with little choice other than to find a discrete place behind the bushes if we need to go. 

The issues this creates are bad enough if large numbers of people need to pee in the outdoors. However, this much worse still when a lack of toilet facilities means that people are forced to defecate in the open air. Koen Maréchal is a Forest Ranger at various areas of woodland near to the eastern part of the West Flemish coast. Mr Maréchal told VRT Radio 2 West Flanders that “There is toilet paper everywhere” on his patch.

He has noticed a big increase in the number of people urinating and defecating in the areas of woodland that he is responsible for.

"There is much more toilet paper and other human waste than there was before the corona crisis. A lot of public toilet facilities are currently closed. I ask myself whether this is a good thing, because to my mind this make remedy worse than the ailment. People have to go, it’s a natural bodily function. However, doing your number twos in the woods doesn’t make for a pretty sight”. 

Mr Maréchal added that people going to the toilet in the woods is detrimental to the animals that live there. "It is the case that scents are very important to animals. These natural scents that we as humans don’t smell are distorted by the scent of human excrement “.

The West Flemish Forest Ranger added “A solution needs to be found for when people need to go. I will never challenge people while they are going to the toilet in the woods. I just make it clear that I am there. Once they’ve finished, I try to persuade people not to leave anything behind. The solution is more public toilets. However, in times of corona this isn’t so simple”.

Mr Maréchal says that it would be a good thing if the walkers on his patch followed the example of backpackers that have a “leave no trace” philosophy when they go trekking through areas of natural beauty. 

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