Saying that the Dorset Quarry is one of the area's foremost local landmarks is similar to asserting the world is round. There really isn't much to debate about it.
It's rare to find a swimming area like that which is accessible to the public. Its setting and the history of marble quarrying make it — if not unique — then certainly unusual. For decades it's been the retreat of choice for scores of people seeking an escape from the summer heat. To borrow from municipal planning jargon, it's a resource worth preserving and protecting.
Which is why the idea floated last week on these pages by Dick McDonough, the owner of the property on which the Quarry sits, seems to make eminent sense and well worth pursuing. As he put it, the time has come to turn this community asset over to the town or the state for safekeeping and maintenance. It's too much to expect or ask of one private individual, now that the Quarry — long a popular getaway spot for locals — has seen its renown and traffic flow steadily increase.
With more people come more issues. Some of them are fun and relatively simple, like deciding who goes off the jump on the cliff first. Others are more problematic — trash, alcohol use and inappropriate behavior. Now that more and more people are drawn to the place to relax on a hot summer's day, the need for more oversight grows. The effort to convert it to a town or state-run facility is timely, and a fundraising campaign to supply the quarry with some basic facilities to entice the state's interest will hopefully get off to a strong start and continue as long as necessary.
The history of the quarry alone makes it worthy of interest. Originally known as the Norcross-West Quarry, it's older than the country itself, literally — the first marble was extracted from there in 1785, four years before the U.S. Constitution was drawn up and George Washington elected President. A good deal of the marble wound up in many of the nation's most storied structures, such as the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan. Demand for marble decreased in the first decades of the 20th century, and the quarry ceased commercial operations in 1917, hastened by an underground spring which was struck and flooded the site. The marble company's loss was local swimmer's gain.
We want to give Dick McDonough and his family credit for serving as good stewards of this property since they acquired it almost 20 years ago, and commend them for improving the area, trimming the brush and making it more accessible. It's worth remembering they didn't have to do that. As a private property, they could easily have chosen to fence it off, let the brush and woods take over, and called the police when someone wanted to go swimming and charge them with trespassing. But they took the opposite tack, and the result is that the area has a really neat and different venue for beating the heat, or just to go and absorb a bit of nature's wonder.
Now it's time to go to the next level, and ensure that this resource is around for future generations to enjoy.