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Published: Saturday, 7/11/2009

Whitehouse seeks use of quarry

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

On one side of the former Nona France stone quarry in Whitehouse, a couple of kids are giggling as they hike through the tall grass.

On the other, a family is searching for hidden treasure, part of an exercise that instructed them to go through the gate at the old quarry. Never mind the lock; someone has bent open a large enough space in the fence for visitors.

Whitehouse Public Works Director Steve Pilcher shakes his head.

"As you can see, the fence doesn't keep people out," he said.

Whitehouse Village Council last week authorized village officials to ask Toledo Metroparks, which owns the property, to allow them to open up the quarry for public fishing.

Even though developing the 14-acre quarry for recreational purposes is part of the sixth and final phase of a plan to develop the Blue Creek Recreation Area, Mr. Pilcher said village officials agreed it was time to open the quarry to the public - legally.

"We decided to try to do it now because it's not a high cost thing and because of the demand it was putting on village police officers chasing people out all the time," he said.

Todd Frendt, president of the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation, which developed the master plan for the recreation area the village leases from Toledo Metroparks, is glad to see it might happen sooner than later.

"It's exciting. I'm looking forward to it and I think it's a great idea to open it up," he said, adding that it can't hurt his group's fund-raising efforts for the park. "It will be great to get people using it and realizing what a great natural resource we have here."

The picturesque watering hole sits out of sight behind the village administration building on Providence Street, tucked behind a chain-link fence and hidden in many spots by trees and brush.

Dave Zenk, parks superintendent for Toledo Metroparks, said he thinks it's feasible that the quarry could be open for fishing yet this summer.

"We're evaluating the site for any safety concerns," he said, adding, "There's no major roadblock. That use is right in line with the intention of the lease agreement in place."

Don Rettig, director of the Metroparks, said the partnership with Whitehouse is beneficial for everyone involved.

"Within the last five or so years we have become involved in more partnerships and opportunities like this where we can expand services for taxpayers and help support things that are important to the community but also help keep the metroparks from getting too far away from its core mission: preservation of large natural areas," Mr. Rettig said.

Whitehouse Village Administrator Dennis Recker said the quarry once was a popular village swimming spot with bathhouses and other amenities, but was closed in the late 1970s.

For a time, the quarry suffered from low-water levels, but the water level is now at an acceptable and consistent level.

"It is truly a recreational resource now," Mr. Recker said. "I think this is the first in a series of cooperative efforts between the Metroparks, the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation, and the village of Whitehouse to go back and develop the area."

He said the next steps could involve opening up the quarry for swimming and boating, and adding walking trails, sand volleyball courts, and other attractions. The youth foundation, which is installing football-soccer fields and baseball-softball diamonds adjacent to the soccer fields already in use, has a beach, a lazy river, a picnic shelter, and other amenities planned for the quarry.


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