To the Editor:
In late 1997 my wife and I purchased the 1773 Dorset Marble House. The property included the historic Norcross West quarry which for nearly a century has been a very popular swimming hole. When we purchased the property the quarry was not visible from Route 30 and consequently was fraught with safety and security problems stemming largely from its seclusion. We decided to make it more visible, and hopefully less troublesome, by removing trees and obstructions which opened it to roadside view. We also created a wall of marble blocks along the highway to establish a boundary. These changes had the effect of reducing the level of misbehavior since the quarry experienced greater attendance by families and community members.
Although misbehavior was reduced unfortunately many users failed to respect the property and frequently left their trash behind. For years I cleaned up their trash. Eventually a trash receptacle was provided thanks to the generosity of Casella Waste Systems Inc. The trash problem persists but has been somewhat reduced.
Historically alcohol has posed a significant problem at the quarry. For the past two years anyone possessing or consuming alcohol at the quarry is considered to be a trespasser. The Vermont State Police have been very helpful in curbing alcohol use and have issued numerous citations to trespassers resulting in fines. We are very grateful for their assistance and believe it has made a significant difference.
With time and through increasingly popular videos on the Internet, mainly Facebook, as well as extensive media coverage, the number of visitors has grown dramatically. If you Google "Dorset quarry" you will discover dozens of videos with well over 100,000 hits showing quarry views and swimmers jumping off the side walls. Many of these videos include directions to the quarry, encouraging more visitors. Accordingly the number of visitors in recent years has increased dramatically and instead of being a local destination the quarry is now a nationwide destination.
The quarry, given its unique history as the source of numerous national monuments, such as the New York Public Library, as well as its ever increasing popularity for swimming, cliff jumping, or family gatherings has been a significant contributor to the local economy. Two years ago we identified vehicles from more than thirty five different states. These folks stay in local accommodations, frequent restaurants, shop the outlets, and generate sales for many local businesses.
In the past two years we have been fortunate to receive assistance with challenges posed by the quarry through local residents who formed, "Friends of the Quarry." Along with students from local high schools, and support from the Dorset Chamber of Commerce, we receive assistance with trash clean up as well as painting over the endless graffiti.
We have been overseeing the quarry for nearly twenty years. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars of personal funds on improving and maintaining the quarry, providing free parking facilities, and removing dangerous items, such as metal stakes, felled trees, etc. During that period I have spent several thousand hours overseeing the quarry, cleaning up, removing rope swings, trimming overhanging branches, picking up broken glass, cutting the lawn, dealing with angry neighbors the police and public officials, taking steps to make it safer, and trying to discourage recklessness and misbehavior. My main reward has been the witnessing the joy of youngsters. On the other hand, I detest the arrogant and reckless attitude of those who feel a sense of entitlement to disrespect this gift. I have been both assaulted and cursed on occasion.
The time has come to turn this community asset over to the town, state, or some other entity. When the USA Today on July 2, 2013 designated the quarry as one of the twelve best swimming holes in the U.S., it was the only one privately owned and not run by a public body. Last summer the Dorset Town Manager, Rob Gaiotti and I met with Vermont state officials to explore their interest and willingness to oversee and manage the quarry. They indicated that they would first require electrical power as well as proper toilet and changing facilities as found in other state parks. These are certainly reasonable prerequisites. They expressed concern about budgetary constraints and the ability to cover their costs through a nominal charge to visitors. They would provide quarry supervision, manage attendance through limits, and oversee parking. The quarry is maxing out and over the long term these capabilities should either be implemented or the quarry should be closed as has been done with most similar properties in our area.
In order to encourage the State of Vermont to proceed positively I believe we need to raise capital funds, through The Dorset Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 121, Dorset, VT 05251 to provide some of the basic facilities the State requires before they will run it as a state park. They currently manage fifty two state parks and have the knowhow, demonstrated ability, and long term experience to undertake this responsibility. If they do, it will benefit our neighbors, the town, local businesses, and importantly those who use the quarry for recreation, enjoy its rich history, as well as the numerous artists and photographers who capture its beauty.
We need the support of the community at large to make this a reality.
We are in the process of formulating a plan to move forward with the objective of encouraging the State of Vermont or another entity to oversee and supervise the quarry. I will share that plan with the community in the future.