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Additional safety improvements backed at Duck Creek Quarry Park

Ban on smoking, restrictions on parking and speed discussed

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – The controversy surrounding the Duck Creek Quarry Park was again dealt with Monday, Aug. 13, by the Howard village board, which unanimously approved spending an additional $12,600 for safety improvements at the park.

The Duck Creek Quarry has become a popular park to visit on hot summer days with people interested in coming there for swimming, fishing, scuba diving and boating. However, there is no lifeguard on duty, and some near-drowning incidents have been reported there, along with nearby residents and others complaining about problems related to trash, crime and parking and traffic safety.

Director of Public Works Geoff Farr informed the board last month about $136,000 having already been budgeted to improve that park, which is now open to the general public at no charge after the board decided last year to remove the quarry user permit system with the area having been fenced off.

Howard Public Works Director Geoff Farr outlines additional safety improvements planned for the Duck Creek Quarry Park.

After board members tabled action July 23 for more information before authorizing additional spending for improvements, they agreed Aug. 13 with a recommendation from Farr and approved what he identified as unfunded safety needs.

Farr noted those needs include materials to construct a central set of steps and handrailing ($4,800), three commercial ladders along the boardwalk ($5,000 to $6,300) and five life-saving throw ring posts ($1,500).

“There were a couple of things not included in the original project,” he said

Farr said the central steps would be less expensive if installed by staff, compared to contracting that work for an estimated $17,000.

He also noted the ladders would make it easier to get in and out of the water while jumping off the 2-3-foot ledge from the central boardwalk area.

“The prior year, there was a lot of people trying to access the higher cliffs and jump in that fashion,” he said. “This seems this (ledge) has really provided a better area for jumping. These people are satisfied with that because they’re not utilizing the high cliffs. That was one thing the village board was concerned about previously.”

Farr said the life-saving throw ring posts would be red in color and mounted near the water.

“In the event they would need to be used, they’d be readily accessible near the edge of the water,” he said.

As part of the concession stand operation, Farr said there could be a procedure to check out life jackets for those who forget to bring them to the park or want to utilize them there.

“If somebody would drop off a license or a credit card or something, they can just check them out,” he said. “I think the village is very concerned about safety and wants to put the best foot forward.”

When asked by Trustee Ray Suennen, who pointed out the village has committed spending around $300,000 overall in labor, equipment rentals, supplies and materials toward the Duck Creek Quarry Park project, as to whether additional safety items would be needed there in the future, Farr said there would be no more this year.

“I’m sure they’ll be some things that the village will want to consider in the future, maybe unrelated to safety,” Farr said. “But this is everything that we can come up with at this time.”

Howard resident Judy Hyska speaks Monday, Aug. 13, before the village board to express her concerns about problems with the development of the Duck Creek Quarry Park, which she called “a monster created out here in our village.”

Village President Burt McIntyre said he agreed the central steps and the ladders along the boardwalk are needed at the park.

“I’ve seen people actually lose their footing on that and laying very uncomfortably on a bunch of stones,” he said. “That is absolutely a safety item. Last week I was kind of leaning over the rail, watching people climb up and down on that ledge, and I saw several people get halfway up, slip, fall down. I mean that’s really an accident waiting to happen.”

McIntyre said he hates to spend the additional money on top of what was already budgeted for the park, “but if we’re going to continue that quarry, these are absolute musts.”

Park complaints

Board members also heard more complaints about the operation of the park.

Judy Hyska, who noted she has lived in the village since 1971, said she doesn’t believe the quarry is a safe environment.

Hyska made reference to reports of near-drowning incidents involving children, trash on the ground and suspected drug dealing at the quarry.

“I feel like there’s been a monster created out here in our village,” she said.

Another village resident, Barb Gaura, who lives on Coggins Court, also raised safety concerns about the quarry.

Prohibiting smoking

A discussion about cigarette butts littering the beaches and other areas at Duck Creek Quarry Park led board members to request an ordinance to be brought back to them to prohibit smoking at the park.

Farr said options to deal with the problem could include prohibiting smoking throughout the park, providing cigarette butt disposal receptacles in the park or providing those disposal receptacles near the parking area and prohibiting smoking on the beach areas only.

Howard Trustee Cathy Hughes speaks Monday, Aug. 13, in favor of prohibiting smoking at Duck Creek Quarry Park.

Trustee Cathy Hughes said she wants to make that park a healthy place by prohibiting smoking there.

“Smoking, obviously we all know, has been unhealthy for years and years and years,” Hughes said. “People are dropping their cigarette butts in the water. That’s another pollutant. We don’t need that.”

McIntyre said he doesn’t want to see smoking on the beaches, but if that would be prohibited in part of the park, “then you have a policing problem.”

“Then you’ve got to figure out where you’re legal, where you’re not legal, and stuff like that,” he said.”If we’re going to go with keeping the beaches clean, then as far as I’m concerned, I’d make the whole facility non-smoking”.

However, McIntyre said that would result in people smoking while standing out on the road.

“You’re not going to stop them from smoking,” he said. “You’re just going to stop them from where they’re smoking. So we have to face the reality that you’re going to have a lot of people standing between cars and maybe even in the roadway itself smoking.”

Trustee Chris Nielsen said he favored not allowing smoking in the park and would not want to have receptacles there for cigarette butts.

“(People) should respect the fact that we have no smoking at the facility,” Nielsen said. “Some are going to not follow that. Some are going to follow that. It’s just a fact of life.”

Trustee Scott Beyer said the ordinance should specify prohibiting all types of smoking, including e-cigarettes.

“I just think we need to include the vaping as part of the ordinance,” Beyer said. “If we do, we need to be very clear on that.”

Board members passed a motion in favor of prohibiting all types of smoking at the park, for which Farr said an ordinance to that effect would be brought back for them to consider at their Aug. 27 meeting.

Parking, speed

To address concerns about parking and traffic around the Duck Creek Quarry Park, board members discussed with Farr some possible options that could be enacted.

Farr noted the proposed changes that would be brought before the board for approval include restricting parking on portions of roadways near the park.

Suennen said he would also like to see the speed limit reduced on the stretch of Glendale Avenue from Lakeview Drive to Maywood Avenue, potentially to 15 mph.

“We have a tremendous amount of traffic on that road on busy days,” he said. “I think that’s a significant safety factor.”

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