- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

KERRVILLE, Texas (AP) - Part of the perennial charm of the Kerrville Folk Festival, which begins May 21 at Quiet Valley Ranch, is its devotion to its roots: top-notch live music, an eclectic array of vendors, a general feeling of unity and harmony and a respect for Mother Nature.

The one thing that many festivalgoers have lamented over the years is the lack of flushing toilets.

But that will change with this year’s festival.

Construction on new restroom facilities began in December, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facilities is expected to take place before the start of the festival.

The structure includes multiple stalls for women and men, potable hot and cold sink water and a handicapped-accessible room that includes a baby changing station.

The $30,000 cost of constructing the flushing toilets was entirely funded by donations, said Dalis Allen, producer of the nonprofit 18-day festival.

“There is so much more possible now because, as a nonprofit organization, we now can do fundraising, and donors can gift us with their tax deductible donations,” Allen told the Kerrville Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1A1hMIo). “This project is supported by Grassy Hill and the many folks that donated to the ‘flush toilets in the theater’ project through the years. This is your donation at work.”

Allen said Kerr County and Hill Country Septic Co. “also have been instrumental” in ensuring the project is complete in time for this year’s festival.

In keeping with the festival’s dedication to stewardship of the land, Allen said it was imperative that the project move forward with the stipulation that there was a way to supply water to flush toilets without pulling it out of the ground.

Thomas Chapmond, who, along with ranch manager J.C. Hammond and Charles Land, has helped to oversee the project, said the way to accomplish that was by reusing gray water - water that originates from showers, hand washing sinks and laundry.

“For the past several years, we have become increasingly aware that our septic treatment system was reaching its capacity, and we began researching solutions,” Chapmond said. “We enlisted the assistance of Ray Young, a licensed septic engineer, and he suggested that we develop a system to divert gray water from our septic system, and use it to irrigate landscape, flush toilets and wet down dusty roads.”

The gray water project has been underway for two years.

“There are numerous estimates, but most experts agree that at least 70 percent of septic usage is gray water, so if you divert gray water, you dramatically increase your septic capacity,” Chapmond said.

Land said the new, professionally engineered septic system is designed to divert approximately 50,000 gallons of shower water per year that had been going into the septic system.

“We have a sophisticated control system that monitors water levels and has an alarm if the water level is too high or too low and protects the pumps,” Land said. “We have two pumps, in case one fails.”

Land said by providing a facility that is larger, easier to keep clean and offers flush toilets and wash sinks with hot and cold water, “we hope to provide better sanitation and a more pleasant environment.”

Chapmond said the project came about out of a desire to improve the festival experience for everyone.

“There is no denying that our audience is aging - one has only to look into our crowd to confirm that fact. Practices that once were tolerable are not so acceptable as we get older,” said Chapmond, who has been part of the festival family since 1975. “Plus, we kept hearing that our primitive facilities were one of the most frequently cited barriers that kept people from attending concerts. We heard stories of people coming out for a night of music and having a wonderful experience - until they ventured to our restrooms.”

Two years ago, the festival installed four flushing toilets in the Kennedy Outdoor Theater area for women, Chapmond said.

“Other than those, the concert attending audience had only one option: privies. That’s changed. I consider myself fortunate to play a leadership role in making improvements for the festival,” said Chapmond, who plays mandolin with the Blue Creek String Band, a bluegrass band in Austin, and mandocello with the Austin Mandolin Orchestra.

He said seeing the hard work of a dedicated team who has remained focused on creating the new flushing toilets has been worth the effort.

“We believe that the new restroom facilities will make everyone’s experience at the Kerrville Folk Festival more pleasant and positive, resulting in increased attendance and more

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Information from: Kerrville Daily Times, https://www.dailytimes.com

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