Hikers who feel nature calling can find relief in a two-hole outhouse that cost the federal government more than $333,000.
The lavish trailside bathrooms feature a slate, gabled roof, cedar clapboard siding, cottage-style porches and a cobblestone foundation that can withstand an earthquake.The outhouse is without running water and isn't open in winter.
"It's a Taj Mahal," Rep. Joseph McDade, R-Pa., told the Philadelphia Inquirer in Wednesday's edition. McDade, whose district includes the park, initially thought the small stone house was a restored cottage.
The bathrooms cost between $333,000 and $445,000 - based on different estimates from the contractor and National Park Service officials. The agency spent about $102,000 on planning and design, $81,000 for an on-site engineer and $150,000 to $262,000 for construction.
"We could have built it cheaper, yes, but we wanted someone coming up the trail or off the road to encounter a nice restroom facility," park superintendent Roger Rector said.
More than a dozen park service designers worked on the bathrooms, which opened in May 1996 in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 90 miles north of Philadelphia.
The baseboards in each restroom are painted with $78-a-gallon custom-mixed epoxy resin that matches the surrounding hemlock evergreen woods. Wildflowers planted around the foundation cost about $720 a pound.