By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Public Safety Director Ed Janke said he had “cautious optimism” while reporting Monday, June 22, to the Howard village board on the reopening of Duck Creek Quarry Park.
The quarry, which is a popular summertime swimming area, had been closed until June 18 over concern about the spread of COVID-19 from possible overcrowding with other nearby swimming areas being closed this summer.
After the board voted 5-4 on June 8 to reopen the park, gates and additional signage were installed at the quarry, where only village residents and their guests are now allowed to use the beach daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
All beach users, including swimmers, sunbathers and picnickers, are required to have a wristband to enter the beach area.
The free wristbands became available the week of June 15 to pick up weekdays at the Howard village hall.
Janke said the village has put a park ranger and private security in place at the quarry.
“I can tell you from personal experience, having talked to at least probably 12 or 13 residents myself, our Howard residents are absolutely delighted since (the board’s decision to reopen the beach area to only village residents and their guests),” he said. “The reason that we did that was for the social distancing because of the overcrowding.”
Janke said last year overcrowding at the quarry generated from six to 10 law enforcement calls per day, and restricting beach use this summer has addressed two things.
“We’ve addressed the social distancing at the quarry, and secondarily, I think, we have certainly addressed the drain on the law enforcement resources in the community,” he said.
Janke said this summer village residents are able to enjoy using Duck Creek Quarry, which he called “one of the gems of our park system.”
Other than having to turn non-residents away from the beach area, he said there were no complaints related to the quarry upon it being reopened with the first two days being busy.
Trustee Cathy Hughes about how swimmers at the quarry are being checked for wristbands, which are not available there, and how they are getting in the water.
Janke said a private security company checks everyone who goes through the gate, while the park ranger works the whole area, including the north end of the quarry where swimming is not allowed because it’s a safety issue.
Village Administrator Paul Evert said swimming is only allowed on the south end of the quarry.
Except for swimming, the remainder of park and the trail are open to all visitors and for all uses during normal park hours.
Fishing is allowed throughout the park. Non-motorized boats, paddleboards, etc., should launch from the dock, and dog swimming also is designated in that area.
Those activities are not allowed on or from the swimming beach.
Village President Burt McIntyre said he received calls from non-residents complaining about not being able to use the park for swimming.
“I got a couple calls from De Pere,” he said. “Obviously, Green Bay was calling, and our neighbors to the south, Hobart, I got some there.”
McIntyre said he suggested non-residents complaining about the quarry’s swimming area being closed to them should “yell at your own leadership for closing your pools.”
“That’s why we did it,” he said. “We didn’t want the load (of people) that we couldn’t control.”
Ashwaubomay Lake closed and the beach at Bay Beach is not opening this summer, while Legion Pool in De Pere is not allowing open swimming with only lap swimming, swim lessons and pool rentals available.