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Howard board denies Green Bay Multisport use of quarry

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

HOWARD – A group that received permission to train in the Duck Creek Quarry Park swimming area years before it opened to the general public won’t be able to swim there this summer.

The Howard village board voted 6-1 Monday, July 13, to deny a request from Green Bay Multisport to use the swimming area for training.

The quarry, a popular summertime outdoor swimming area, was closed until June 18 over concern about the spread of COVID-19 from possible overcrowding with other nearby swimming areas also being closed this summer.

The board voted 5-4 last month to reopen the quarry, where gates and additional signage were installed with only village residents and their guests allowed – with wristbands obtained for free from village hall – to use the beach daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

However, that resulted in Green Bay Multisport members, who previously trained at the quarry in preparation for triathlons, not being able to swim there this year if they didn’t reside in Howard or weren’t a guest of a village resident.

Green Bay Multisport requested either receiving wristbands for a fee of $300 (or a negotiated amount) for its members to train at the quarry while it was open for swimming, or else pay an hourly security fee of $25 to swim there when closed.

Village Administrator Paul Evert said selling wristbands wouldn’t be a viable option, because the village would lose its recreational immunity for the little amount of income it would receive.

Becky Brecklin of Green Bay Multisport appears Monday, July 13, before the Howard village board to seek approval for the group to use the Duck Creek Quarry Park swimming area for training twice a week for an hour.

Evert said allowing Green Bay Multisport members access after 6 p.m. for an hour twice a week with a security guard provided to act as a gatekeeper would be more feasible, but likely would generate more requests from others for the same consideration to use the quarry.

Becky Brecklin, a Green Bay Multisport board member from Hobart, appeared before the board to request the group be allowed to swim at the quarry this summer.

Brecklin said the group has about 75 athletes who compete in multisport events, particularly triathlons, which involve swimming, biking and running, and the quarry has provided team members the opportunity for open-water swim training.

“Open-water swimming is very different than training in a pool,” she said. “It’s a beautiful distance (at the quarry). Over and back is a good half mile, so we can measure that. Some of our athletes are training for over one-mile swims or 2.4-mile swims, so it’s a really nice opportunity for us to train and get over some of that anxiety that open-water swimming can cause.”

Brecklin said the group likely would have from 10-20 swimmers at the quarry at one time with the members preferring to be there Monday and Thursday from 6-7 p.m.

Green Bay Multisport President Scot Rajsich, who is from Appleton and participated in the meeting remotely, concurred with Brecklin’s comments.

‘Pandora’s Box’

The board’s discussion leading up to denying the request focused on the ramifications of what could happen.

Trustee Ray Suennen, who was the lone board member present who supported the request, said Green Bay Multisport is an organized group which has used the quarry for the specific purpose of training, but it would be a different matter if others who don’t live in Howard would form a group and want to swim there without a specific purpose or function.

“I’m in favor of this group (Green Bay Multisport), but I’m cautious about what we could get ourselves into here,” he said.

Trustee Maria Lasecki called the request from Green Bay Multisport “a Pandora’s Box.”

“I think it’s a recipe for confusion, for precedence or the perception of unfairness,” she said. “Though I’d like to be in favor of it, I won’t support it tonight simply because… even in normal circumstances this would be a challenge for an administration to handle.”

Trustee Cathy Hughes said she has driven by the quarry this summer and seen people swimming there when the beach is closed.

“We already are having a few issues, and I’ve seen them myself,” she said.

With this summer being the first year the quarry has been open to swimming for only village residents and their guests, Hughes said the feedback has been mostly positive and she would like to keep it that way.

“I think if we have one group start (using the quarry), there’s going to be another group starting and another one and another,” she said. “So, where is it going to end?”

Hughes said she would like to see how this year’s rules as to who may use the quarry’s swimming area “work for one season before we add anything else on.”

Trustee Scott Beyer said the village has been criticized on social media by non-residents for closing the quarry to them for swimming, and opening it up to other non-resident swimmers would put the village in “quite a predicament.”

“As much as I would like to extend it, I cannot support it,” he said.

Village President Burt McIntyre said he appreciates what Green Bay Multisport does, but he would be “a little bit nervous” about opening the quarry to the group with the number of members who aren’t Howard residents.

“I’m afraid that would come back and kick us right in the back side,” he said.

McIntyre said he didn’t want to make any changes to the rules in place this year at the quarry, but left open the possibility of allowing Green Bay Multisport to swim there in 2021.

“Think about it for next year,” he said. “Think about if there’s any way. We’ll let staff answer the question: Is there a way we can do it without having the residents feel that they’ve been double-crossed?”

Following the board’s vote, Brecklin said Green Bay Multisport currently doesn’t have another open-water swimming area lined up for training, but is considering all of its options.

“We are currently looking at Lake Michigan, Lake Winnebago and Door County beaches,” she said. “All will require more travel for our 75 members, but we are hopeful that the Howard village board will work with us in 2021. We were hoping for another outcome, of course, but understand and respect their decision.”

Quarry update

Public Safety Director Ed Janke provided the board with an update on the quarry, where he said there has been only one complaint documented this summer as the result of a “small disturbance” involving a non-Howard resident asked to leave by the park ranger, who needed to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

“But other than that, we have now gone from, on average, probably five calls a day to that one call,” he said. “Again, a significant change with regard to our use of (public safety) resources down there.”

Ed Janke

Janke said all the village residents he has personally spoken to think limiting use of the quarry’s swimming area to people living in Howard and their guests is a “phenomenal move.”

“In fact, some of our people have said that they would not go to the quarry beach last year as a result of some of things that were going on there,” he said. “This year, they feel compelled actually to go down there and enjoy the quarry beach.”

Janke said limiting use at the quarry this year was “an exceptional decision on behalf of the board to move in this direction as a result of the COVID spacing.”

“Now, I think the benefits of that are really demonstrating themselves to all of us with regard to the statistics and at least the pleasure that has been noted by residents,” he said.

Janke said the village has put a park ranger and private security in place at the quarry.

All beach users over the age of 5, including swimmers, floaters, sunbathers and picnickers, are required to have a wristband to enter the quarry’s beach area.

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.

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