(Above: Photo by Jordan Mady.)
QUARRY PARTIES USUALLY START OFF WITH A TEXT. “Let’s hit the quarry tonight”. Young people – usually students of high school or university age – then get together at one of the local quarries or sandpits, jump into the water basins and maybe even crack a cold one or two.
Sometimes under-age, they’re technically trespassing on industrial properties owned by Thomas Cavanagh Construction or R.W. Tomlinson.
I never had a drink at a quarry but I did go to a few gatherings in high school, taking a plunge into the water if I could muster the strength to climb back up crude rope ladders, or mud if the ladders were out of service.
Besides tracking a bit of sand into my parent’s house (a travesty where I live), nothing bad ever came out of the quarry gatherings I attended.
John French, Cavanagh’s safety manager, says as long as nothing gets out of control, Cavanagh will keep a laisser-faire approach with its quarry properties.
“You were there. Was it a mob scene or out of control?” he asks. “If it becomes necessary, we’ll lock the place up. If you’re in the business we’re in, we have very little trouble pissing off the neighbours. We blast, we have big trucks. So you tend to try to be a little flexible with the locals. ”
R.W. Tomlinson aggregates manager Scott Berquist said it’s hard to stop people from entering their premises at all times. He said that if a group contacted the company in order to swim in one of their sandpits, they would let it happen so long as the swimmers knew Tomlinson wouldn’t be held liable for any problems.
So far, both Cavanagh and Tomlinson have no problems to report with regard to people accessing their properties for leisure. French noted that, from his knowledge, it’s adults who tend to frequent quarries more often than teenagers.
A local parent says the unknowns of quarries are part of what makes them too dangerous. The mother of a 14-year-old and 16-year-old asked to remain anonymous out of concern for the safety of her children.
“The unknown water. Is it clean? How deep is it? Are there rocks or dangers that are not seen from the surface?” she wrote in an email to stittsvillecentral.ca.
She says she’s also concerned about poor access to emergency services.
“There is no supervision and not great access to any emergency services because cell service is notoriously spotty in that area,” she said. “Activities centred around the water are specifically unsafe when drinking and partying are going on,” she said.
“I simply think it is unsafe to swim in a quarry on private property, I think it is trespassing. I’m concerned that the temptation to drink and party then go swimming with no lifeguards is a recipe for disaster.”
Her acknowledgement of the balancing act between proper parenting and over-sheltering seems to align itself with the passive-aggressive nature of the entire situation.
“I will do my best to keep my kids away but at their age I am not following them 24/7 and worry when they are out with friends it may be too great a temptation, especially if ‘everyone’ is doing it,” she said.
Ottawa Police constable Marc Soucy said quarry parties aren’t a big issue, but that if they know about a particular event, they’ll send a police presence for safety.
“We do have officers in schools. Especially when school’s on, or when it’s close to the end, we have the grad parties, and if we hear there’s going to be a party or a big bash at the quarry or by the river, we’ll send officers, if necessary, to tell them it’s not a good idea or persuade them not to go there,” he said.
“Or sometimes, it’s reactive. We may not know about the party but if someone finds out or a concerned parent calls us, we’ll react.”
Those who drive by the Cavanagh Beagle Club Quarry just before the Jinkinson Road and Fernbank Road turn-off will notice the gates to quarry are usually open. This is because Cavanagh has an agreement with the City of Ottawa and other organizations where they can take water from the large basin in the quarry, according to French.
At this point, the police nor Cavanagh see a reason to keep this quarry off limits. But the situation is monitored.
“In general throughout the city, owners probably have called us in the past to say ‘this is going on, I didn’t authorize it, can you put an end to it?'”he said. “Especially if there’s illegal stuff going on like under-age drinking.”
If no laws are being broken and the place isn’t being trashed, French says the Cavanagh quarries won’t be put on lock-down.
“We tend to ignore that if it’s orderly and there aren’t too many beer bottles,” he said.
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