Because of the tragic death of Amy Willey last month, there have been calls to drain, dynamite or fill the Frankfort quarry so this type of accident never will happen again. According to the newspapers, over the last 20 years two people have died and two have been crippled to some degree at this popular swimming hole. This quarry, like any other, obviously can be dangerous if not treated with the respect it deserves. But besides the many people who go there to swim and jump off its ledges, there are also many others who visit this incredible spot by hiking or biking through the beautiful mountains and woods that surround it to enjoy its natural beauty.
Various civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Audubon Society have hiked to and around this quarry because of its beauty. The quarry is not just a place for young or old people to hang out. My wife and I have walked to it many times with our dogs only to cool off in its clean, crisp water after we’ve reached it.
That being said, let’s take a look at one of the most beautiful, popular and visited spots in our state. One spot is much more dangerous and more people have died or been injured visiting it in the same 20-year period than at the Frankfort quarry. You have to pay to get in and see it, and it is watched over by the federal parks department. Our elected officials allow people by the tens of thousands to visit it even though death and injury are almost guaranteed there at some point. Even under the best weather conditions and a watchful eye, this spot can be extremely dangerous if not treated with respect.
It’s Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park. On top of that, I’ve watched television news on recent nights report how riptides at southern Maine beaches are wreaking havoc and several people had to be saved by lifeguards two days in a row, putting them all at risk of death or injury.
Recently, a television cameraman- reporter fell off Knife Edge on Mount Katahdin and had to be airlifted out.
I wonder why we don’t have the same zeal to shut down these waiting to happen death-injury traps? Could it be because the uproar to keep it open would be much louder?
So, why the zeal to shut down the quarry in Frankfort? Is it because it’s Frankfort, and not part of the “beautiful world”? Or because it doesn’t generate any money for the state? Or maybe because it will make someone “feel good” that this so-called death-injury trap finally might be put to rest?
I’ve recently read and heard how many blame the town of Frankfort for not closing the quarry, including those who’ve been injured or whose family members have died there. Their deaths and injuries are tragic, and no one wants that to happen to anyone or any family. But you can’t blame the town of Frankfort or the quarry for an act that a person chooses to make of his own free will knowing that there is the danger of death or injury.
Shutting down the quarry, Thunder Hole, beaches or Knife Edge will do little or nothing to stop people from doing dangerous things. There are well over 100 quarries in this state and thousands of other “safe” areas for people to go to and do things that are unsafe. If it’s there, they will find it.
Unfortunately, as Paul Emerson stated at the selectmen’s meeting in Frankfort last week, the real answer is “you have to use common sense when dealing with natural hazards such as these.” The problem is you can’t regulate common sense and because of that we will continue to read about the tragic and untimely deaths at these spots and the thousands of others like them throughout the state.
Steven Imondi of Frankfort is a retired millworker.