Quarry owner mulls changes

DORSET - The idea of public use of private entities has once again caused a stir, this time surrounding the Dorset Quarry.

Dick McDonough, who owns the quarry, held a public meeting last Thursday to see if community members or the town would help with the upkeep required to keep the quarry open. While it is located on private property, the swimming hole has been used for decades as a public recreation area.

"I own the quarry and the quarry owns me," he said. "What precipitated the meeting...last October, to my surprise, I found somebody had done extensive cutting."

Trees were cut down around the property without McDonough's permission and thinned out brush in areas where his home is now visible from the quarry. McDonough said he had called the state police, they came to the property, but a police report was not filed.

McDonough said he wants to keep the quarry open to the public, but would like some help with the maintenance and upkeep he does to try and keep the area safe. For example, he said he has cut down some of the tall trees and rope swings in the area that visitors use to jump in the quarry, cleaned up garbage and painted over graffiti. He said he would also like some assistance in maintaining order.

"I would like to somehow pay for police to come in on the weekend, to help maintain some semblance of order...and monitor for misbehavior," he said. McDonough's concern and the fundamental problem at the quarry, he said, is the use of alcohol on three grounds. He said that he has tried to prohibit this use, but that alcohol "finds its way in."

The issues of liability was brought up, and one of the individuals present at the meeting asked if McDonough was liable for any injuries sustained on his property. He said his is not. There is a law in place, Vermont's Landowner Landowner's Liability Law, that protects landowners who open their private land for public recreation.

Another person wanted to know if McDonough even had the authority to close the quarry from visitors.

"Absolutely," he said. "There is no reason there has to be water in that hole."

The idea was circulated of having local youths, like students at Long Trail School and Burr and Burton Academy help with the clean up. There was also the suggestion of hiring security or more police presence in the area, as a way to deter illicit activity.

The Vermont River Conservancy, a not for profit, state-wide water-focused land trust was mentioned to McDonough as an organization that could take over the quarry. He said he would be willing to work with them to get the quarry recognized as a state swimming hole.

McDonough mentioned he has thought about creating a 501-c3 non-profit organization, as a way to care for the quarry without carrying the burden of maintenance himself. He asked if anyone present at the meeting would want to join, and a sign up sheet was passed around. Chris Brooks, the chairman of the select board, said, in his opinion, creating a non-profit was the best way to go about finding a solution to this problem. Then, he said, the non-profit could potentially petition the town for funds through a warned article at Town Meeting.

McDonough said he wants to keep the quarry open, especially since he loves to see families enjoy their summers there. However, he no longer wants to have the sole responsibility for the care and maintenance of the area.

"Eliminating alcohol [from the quarry] would be the number one objective," he said. "The broader objective would be to get more community support."


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