The Dorset quarry; now and in the future
Social media has had an enormous impact on the Dorset Quarry, known as the Norcross West Quarry when it operated over a century ago. The crowds of visitors have grown exponentially over the years largely due to websites like YouTube, Instagram and Google Maps. USA Today named it as one of the top 12 swimming holes in the US. The other 11 are publicly owned.
This past summer thousands found relief from the unusual tropical heat in July and on other cloudless days ideal for a refreshing swim. Family picnics, floats, sunbathing and the ever-present, "cliff jumping" drew hundreds of recreational visitors throughout the summer. At times the parking area was bursting and lounging space was at a premium. A check of license plates revealed strong contingents from NY, MA, CT, NH, and VT as well as dozens of other states. Over the course of a year, hundreds of tourists stop to admire, marvel, and photograph this gem.
All in all, the visitors proved more respectful than in past years, meaning there was a noticeable improvement on the part of at least a small cadre to clean up the litter and reduce the graffiti. A special note of thanks to Casella Waste Management for donating the trash containers— they made a huge difference. The Town of Dorset and State Police played an important role in improved safety through control of alcohol and drugs. Our thanks.
The Dorset Quarry has a rich history, both as the source of marble for dozens of landmark buildings, such as The New York Public Library, but also as a free and open "swimming hole" for hundreds of thousands over the past century. It is fed by both a mountain stream and natural spring which keeps its waters refreshed and flowing. It possesses a natural beauty due to its flat marble walls, scaled wall heights, hundreds of marble blocks, and natural setting. Its beauty and tranquility vary with the seasons.
On the other hand, we also experience a fringe element, boisterous, disrespectful, arrogant and foolhardy. Too often they disturb others, abuse the privilege of being allowed on the property and create risky and dangerous devices such as rope swings, zip lines, and jumping from tree branches. Not content with cliff diving, they often foolishly take dangerous and risky jumps from blocks setback far from the edge of the quarry wall. They are not welcome.
We purchased the quarry in 1997 when nobody else would. We have served as its caretakers for over twenty years. Aside from cleaning up trash, trimming brush, removing dead or dangerous trees and branches, and mowing it regularly, we have spent tens of thousands to build the marble wall on Route 30, landscape the lawn area, and create, expand, resurface, and enclose a parking area to reduce the risk of parking along Route 30, which was dangerous but commonplace years ago. At our own expense, we removed dozens of dangerous metal rods that aligned the quarry edge.
Some would argue that the quarry is a nuisance. However, the joy, pleasure and fond memories it has provided over the decades to the community far outweigh the negatives. We have been motivated in a large measure by observing the pleasure it brings to youngsters on their first visit. Dozens of families and individuals tell me they have been enjoying the quarry for decades.
There is another side to the quarry: a public resource. The Dorset Fire Department conducts training drills, tests its equipment and in emergencies draws water from the quarry. The State's First Responders frequently conduct underwater training exercises to sharpen their skills. The State Highway Department has drawn water in times of severe drought. We have granted the Town permission to add a fire hydrant to facilitate access in emergency situations. We have worked with both the Town and Chamber of Commerce to host free live summer concerts with hundreds in attendance. The Quarry has also been the site of several movie shoots and the backdrop for model fashion photos.
Having invested so much personal care, time, energy and money in the quarry for over twenty years we are at a crossroads. We hope to find a new custodian for the quarry. If not, we will have to seriously consider the alternative of fencing it off and closing it. Unfortunately, this has been the common fate of many similar quarries, swimming holes, waterfalls and waterways.
Under new ownership, the quarry could be significantly improved. A proper bridge, grassy lounging area, and smooth walkway could be added to the south side. A drop-off area to reduce congestion and a proper entrance could be created. A bulletin board depicting and explaining the quarry's history and quarrying techniques would add appeal and information for curious tourists and visitors. Additional signage and safety precautions could be taken. Picnic tables and benches might be added in the wooded area on the north side. Additional clearing, shrubbery, landscaping, and flowers would further enhance the quarry's beauty. The parking area could add designated markings to relieve congestion. A Stonehenge appearance could be created using existing marble blocks.
In order to keep the quarry open to the public, which is our strong preference, we have initiated a GoFundMe account, "Preserve & Enhance Dorset Quarry" to raise funds which if successful will be used to make several of the improvements just described in order to induce new ownership. To further amplify the point, The Vermont Dept. of Parks and Recreation indicated they would consider converting the quarry to a state park if it had electricity, a well, toilet and changing facilities and other amenities. The State is not the only alternative as perhaps The Town of Dorset or a private entrepreneur might step in.
In conclusion, the Dorset Quarry is a unique historical landmark, recreational area, and tourist destination which has been in private hands for over a century. The time has come for this attractive state and local resource to become what it should be: a properly managed, preserved, and open public park; a legacy for future generations to enjoy. We seek the support of the local business community, which has benefited financially over the years from the quarry, as well as the thousands of individuals and families who have made or plan to make the Dorset Quarry their travel destination.
We urge you to visit, GoFundMe, "Preserve and Enhance Dorset Quarry" and make a donation, large or small, to help ensure the Dorset Quarry not only remains open but continues down the path of improvement as it has done under our tenure. We pledge any funds received will be used solely for improvements, except for helping defray our expense of the port-o-johns.
Dick McDonoughs, Oldest
American Marble Quarry, LLC.
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