The Board and Town Manager have looked at numerous options, including extending Black Rock Road across my property and even solicited the opinion of the state highway department without first informing me of the proposal.
They are currently considering placing a burn across Kelly Road, abandoning the south end of Kelly Road, and restricting public parking on the north end to assure open access to Black Rock Road. They have also suggested that I let the quarry get overgrown so as to discourage usage - an alternative that would take years and which I believe would have minimal impact.
Finally there was a suggestion that I add a dye to the water so that all swimmers would be stained a distinctive color, a proposal I refused to consider.
On a personal level as a swimmer I held several world, American, and NCAA records
Without the Vermont statute that protects landowners who allow use of their property for recreational use, we would have to close the quarry. Signage is posted in several places warning users of the dangerous conditions and prohibited activities but it is frequently ignored. On occasion the state police have been very helpful in enforcing laws against minors drinking alcohol, ticketing cars parked on Route 30, which I believe is now a $100 fine, and arranging for towing which can cost roughly $200.
The quarry has been open to public for nearly 100 years, long before any homes were built on either Kelly or Black Rock Road. When we purchased the property the quarry was not visible from Route 30. As new owners we were told by police that a single officer would not enter until a second officer joined. The quarry had a history of drug usage, nude swimming, raucous behavior, piles of trash, and abusive use of alcohol.
Based on the sheriff's suggestion, we decided to open up the quarry so that it would be visible from Route 30 with an expectation that it would appeal to more families and the visibility would reduce the level of misbehavior.
At the time users parked on Route 30 which proved dangerous and resulted in at least two car accidents. We petitioned the Board of Selectmen, and ultimately the State of Vermont, to designate a length of Route 30 as No Parking for safety reasons.
As a result the parking was moved over to Kelly Road and as owners we agreed the town could widen the road on our property to accommodate the parking.
Over time usage of the quarry has grown significantly we believe in a large measure due to word of mouth and predominately the Internet. A Google search of "Dorset Quarry" reveals there are dozens of videos of the quarry that have been viewed by thousands of individuals. Based on license plates the preponderance of users are from out of state although there is a sizable group of local Vermonters who visit it and enjoy it regularly, particularly on extremely hot days.
The quarry is more than just a swimming hole. The town fire department regularly conducts training exercises typically in the evening. They also draw water from the quarry for fire fighting purposes. State emergency response teams frequently use the quarry to conduct scuba training exercises. The state highway department on occasion, during periods of draught, has drawn water in order to clean bridges throughout the state. By any measure it has proved to be a community asset.
I should add that from a personal perspective the quarry is a significant burden that affords no benefit other than the enjoyment it provides to thousands of users. We incurred significant expense to open it up, add the marble walls so young children would not wander in, and graded and seeded a lawn. I paid to have the metal stakes removed that years earlier had resulted in the death of a Dorset resident. For over 14 years I have maintained the property which involves cutting the lawn, removing trees used for jumping, cutting down numerous swing lines, cutting back overgrowth, and personally cleaning up trash which over time has likely been well over a ton and literally thousands of cans, bottles, and food containers as well as items too gross to mention.
The quarry has been featured on The Chamber of Commerce brochure, the cover of the local phone book, television programs featuring local attractions, and cited as a destination in numerous local hotels and B&B's. Never has anyone asked for permission to use it for promotional purposes but assuredly it generates very substantial revenues for local businesses, perhaps in the millions of dollars range since many of those out-of-staters require accommodations, food, and are likely to do some local shopping.
There seem to be two major issues:
1. The misconduct of individuals who park on Kelly Road. There is a concern about the safety of pedestrians due to inattentive driving or perhaps drivers under the influence. There is also a concern about littering on Kelly Road as well as public urination and defecation. These are all criminal acts and need to be addressed to the police, not me. As to the littering, I suggest that a sign be posted similar to that on Dorset West Road that states, " $500 fine for trash in streams or on highways." That is much more likely to get the attention of parkers. Also I would suggest posting the relevant Town Ordinances at the entrance to the Quarry, namely one dealing with obstructing free passage and another dealing with littering. The sign should also provide the cost of a ticket for illegal parking on Route 30 and Kelly Road as well as the towing company name, phone number and charge for vehicles towed. Again visitors are ignorant of the consequences of their violations. I believe the free for all attitude will change with effective signage and enforcement.
2. Parking on Kelly Road that obstructs access to Black Rock Road, with special concern about the ability of emergency vehicles being blocked by improper parking. I sympathize with this concern which is legitimate.
However the scope of the problem is limited as the parking overflow only occurs in three months, June-August, and then primarily on weekends or holidays. I regularly travel south down Kelly Road when returning from Dorset and although the parking can be very heavy, over 100 vehicles, I personally have never experienced an occasion when Black Rock Road was inaccessible although I believe it could happen. There have been numerous suggestions as to how to remedy the concerns of Black Rock Road. Some of them seem extreme given the limited time period when the potential problem might occur. My proposal is that the north end of Kelly Road be redesignated as no parking on either side of the road subject to towing and fines for violations.
I would agree to widen the south end of Kelly Road so the parking would be permitted on both sides of the road. This would involve removing trees and placing about 10 to 12 feet of fill on my property on the east side of Kelly Road to expand the parking. Assuming enforcement of the no parking/tow zone on the north end of Kelly Road this should completely alleviate the concern about accessibility to Black Rock Road. Furthermore it eliminates the inconvenience of having to drive north to go south and concerns about the risks of entering Route 30 around a bend, if the proposal to place a burn in the middle of Kelly Road were adopted. Since the parking problem is at most a three month phenomena the inability of residents to drive south on Kelly Road during the other nine months makes little sense.
Dick McDonough lives in Dorset.