Board updated on Duck Creek Quarry Park
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Making $14,600 of additional improvements not already budgeted for this year at the Duck Creek Quarry Park was tabled Monday, July 23, by the Howard village board.
Prior to the vote to table, board members heard an update on the status of the quarry project from Public Works Director Geoff Farr, who noted the improvements the board approved last September are nearly complete.
“We have some minor work plus some paving left to complete,” Farr said. “Some of the trails will be paved, especially by the east, deep beach, the middle of the wall area and then the ramp down to the west beach,” he said. “That is essentially the completion of the project. There is some work yet to be done in the future, including western retaining wall, cap and railing, but essentially at this time we have spent all of the allocated funds.”
Farr noted the board decided last year to eliminate the quarry user permit system that was in place and approved removing the boundary fencing because of growing interest there in swimming, fishing, scuba diving and boating.
“There was definitely (an interest from) people that wanted to use the quarry and it really drove additional interest in the project later,” he said. “Essentially the board approved installing some additional parking, some trails and some small beaches. Fortunately, they worked out very well. Our materials on-site, including big boulders that we used to construct the walls, the excavation wasn’t as difficult as we had thought.”
“Up through June we had about 2,400 staff hours, we used 200 hours of backhoe, 650 dump truck hours, some pickup hours and loader hours as well,” he said. “So far we have spent about $116,000 of the $136,000, and we have about $20,000 of paving that will take place in the next 2-3 weeks that will bring us basically to the grand total.”
Farr characterized the popularity of the Duck Creek Quarry as “very, very good.”
“Definitely strong interest, more than I think anybody anticipated, partly due to some of the media exposure,” he said.
When the weather is nice during the summer, Farr said he would expect to see about 100 people there weekdays with hundreds on hand on weekends.
“Essentially this is a dusk-to-down operation the way it was originally approved,” he said. “There are no lifeguards. That is somewhat on purpose because the village enjoys basically recreational immunity. There are no fees charged, so there is no admission. It’s basically a use-at-your-own-risk (operation), so that’s intentional.”
Farr said there was a problem at the Duck Creek Quarry Park around the end of June and early July because there wasn’t sufficient parking with the new stalls and parking spaces being filled up along Lakeview Drive.
“Since then, the ball field, the soccer field south of the Pickle Park diamond there has been as an overflow parking area, and that has seemed to do the trick to give enough people areas to park,” he said.
Farr said the no-parking zones that have been installed in adjacent neighborhoods will be a topic of discussion at future meetings.
He said the additional stop sign approved by the board to make the intersection of Lakeview Drive and Glendale Avenue an all-way stop will address the increase in traffic related to Duck Creek Quarry Park.
Farr noted the additional $14,600 requested for this year includes materials to construct a set of steps between the east beach and the boardwalk ($4,800), materials for four ladders along the boardwalk ($800), five life-saving throw ring posts ($2,000) and one or two foot wash/shower stations ($3,500 each).
He said the throw ring posts could have some signage indicating the shallow swim beach would be more suitable for families with new swimmers.
Farr said other improvements the board might want to consider in the future could include items such as picnic tables or benches.
“We’re definitely getting a lot of varied interests by all age groups – people wanting to watch the swimmers, grandparents, mothers’ children,” he said. “There’s also interest groups that have expressed a desire to assist the village in future project, whether it be donating labor, providing monetary funds to add improvements, so there’s definitely been some interest expressed in that area.”
Farr said the village has been in contact with the Brown County Health Department regarding the possibility of testing the water on Tuesdays at the Duck Creek Quarry for $50 a week.
Trustee Chris Nielsen praised the efforts of village staff at the Duck Creek Quarry Park.
“I have had hundreds of comments, positive, when I’m at the quarry swimming,” he said. “I’ve used both sides. I’ve kayaked it. I went out and floated in the middle. A lot of people didn’t know it existed and they’re going, ‘Where was this all my life? What’s going on out here? When did this happen? Who did this?’ Tons of great questions.”
Nielsen, who also suggested reaching out to service groups about adding seats and garbage cans to the park, said he favored placing signs on the beach about no dogs being allowed there, something that’s already noted on the large billboards.
Trustee Mike Hoppe, who has been opposed to the development of the Duck Creek Quarry, questioned how much the project has actually cost.
“I think the trustees, this board, should be made more aware of some of the additions that are happening at that quarry, because I did not know that we had all this trash problem,” Hoppe said. “I did not realize that the neighbors were concerned. All I ever hear are nothing but rosy comments.”
Doug Steiner, who lives near the Duck Creek Quarry, informed the board about village residents who both use and don’t use the quarry having “grief and anxiety over issues concerning safety, litter and crime.”
Steiner said various forms of litter have been left behind in the park and elsewhere nearby since the quarry opened.
In addition to vehicles parked where parking is not allowed, Steiner said “a big concern” is the vehicles parked along Lakeview Drive.
“Lakeview Drive is a high-traffic area,” he said. “It’s a truck road. Household residents on Lakeview Drive have issues seeing, backing in and out of driveways. I am one of them.”
Though he characterized the quarry property as “very beautiful” with what the village has done with it, Steiner said “the quarry has been attracting some very unsavory people.”
“The quarry is great with what you’re doing, but it’s just not bringing in the crowd that is good for our neighborhood,” he said.
Village President Burt McIntyre said the village has “some issues that we’ve got to work on” with the development of the Duck Creek Quarry Park.
“This is one of those ‘build it and they will come’ (things), and they sure did,” McIntyre said. “We’re dealing with the parking… and we’re not done.”
Trustee Adam Lemorande suggested looking at using the nearby old pickle factory site for parking and asked those living near the quarry to keep the board informed on problems they encounter.
“What I keep hearing is ‘parking, parking, parking,’” Lemorande said. “I think the litter is something (that can be addressed) with garbage cans… I would like this group of people (who live near the quarry) to stay involved in this. I think when we make a decision, we’re sitting up here, and we don’t live down the street (from the quarry). You can bring a lot of light to us.”
Steiner said he agreed using the old pickle factory site for parking would be a good idea.
Trustee Cathy Hughes suggested having parking prohibited on the east side of Lakeview Drive.
“There’s so many semis that wheel around there,” Hughes said. “There’s umpteen people, you name it, it goes down there. Eliminating that east side parking on there would probably help a lot, and a little kid won’t be running across Lakeview to get to the car.”
Hughes also suggested those seeing something at the quarry beach that shouldn’t be happening there to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department non-emergency number at 448-4200.
Trustee Ron Bredael suggested reducing the speed limit on Lakeview Drive between Glendale Avenue and the Mountain Bay Trail.
Nielsen made the motion to table action on funding any additional improvements at the quarry until receiving further information, such as for the steps being proposed for the beach. Trustee Ray Suennen cast the lone dissenting vote on the motion to table.
Lemorande asked Farr to get an estimate for what it would cost to raze the old pickle factory where additional parking has been suggested for the Duck Creek Quarry Park.