It's illegal to trespass at a rock quarry in McLeansville, but it sure is fun, said one Guilford family who hopes the three lakes can become a recreation area. That's wishful thinking, say deputies, who call the lakes dangerous.
For Faye Hunt and her family, Wednesday's beach trip was an exercise in civil disobedience.
The ``beach' Hunt chose is the closest thing to one at an abandoned rock quarry near McLeansville, which for years has been a popular but illegal, 110-foot-deep swimming hole. This beach has a 30-foot wide swatch of sand next to one of the three lakes at the rock quarry, a 203-acre property owned by Thermex Energy Corp. of Dallas.``The kids love it. The kids truly love it,' Hunt said as she made baloney sandwiches and prepared to serve potato chips and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. She sat on a beach towel as she watched her two children and three friends frolic in the shallow water off an area known as the ``beach.'
Hunt's family and friends, from Brown Summit, had fun jumping into the cool, deep water.
But they're breaking the law, said Capt. Herb Jackson, who is charged with enforcing the trespassing law. ``Somebody's going to get killed out there,' Jackson said.
People have been swimming at the illegal swimming hole for years, but in the past two years litter and vandalism have become major problems, said Capt. Al Stewart of the Greensboro Police Department. Stewart, from about 1985 to 1992, reported to Thermex every time someone tore down a fence on the roads that lead to the quarry.
But in 1992, the company gave up. For the past two years, there has been no effort to mend the fences. Anyone can drive into the quarry. The only obstacles are ``No Trespassing' signs hung in the trees at roadside.
In an effort to stop what they consider a dangerous activity, the sheriff's department on June 3 stepped up efforts to cite trespassers at the property. Since then, more than 55 people have been cited.
And, so far, nobody has gotten hurt, said Eric Lyung of Greensboro, but deputies worry that some might.
Along with the fear of a beginning swimmer drowning at the quarry, Jackson worries about men who bring guns to the lakes at night for target practice, drinking beer and shooting at bottles in the water.
Beer isn't the only thing that is consumed at the lakes, said deputy L.C. Straughn. Deputies also worry about people who come to the quarry to smoke marijuana.
Lyung said he likes the idea of Straughn and other deputies patrolling around the artificial lakes, but he said swimming ought to be allowed.
``They ought to go around and keep the pot-smokers and the trouble-makers out, and let everybody else stay,' Lyung said.
The rock quarries were created by digging for limestone by the Martin-Marietta Corp. in 1960s and 1970s. Underwater, the sides are mostly steep and the water dozens of feet deep, even a foot from the shoreline.
Martin-Marietta sold the property in 1980 to Gulf Oil Corp.'s explosives division, which manufactured construction explosives at the site until 1982. Thermex Energy Corp. bought the property along with all of Gulf Oil's explosives division in 1984, said Dick Forsythe, president of Thermex.
When mining stopped, water filled the three deep quarries.
Instead of citing trespassers, the Guilford County officials ought to buy the land and establish a recreation area, said Todd Miller, 21, who swam with the Hunt family on Wednesday.
``They ought to open it up,' Miller said.
``A lot of people come here and have fun. The county ought to buy it and turn it into a recreation area. Charge a couple of bucks and they could hook-up on the insurance.
``They could clear out a little of the woods, bring in some sand, take out some of the stuff that makes it dangerous and really make this a great place to swim,' said Miller. ``I know everybody would pay a couple bucks for this.'
Forsythe, reached by phone in his Dallas office, said he thought turning the quarry into a public swimming hole was a great idea. He said anyone can have the three lakes, the entire 203 acres, for $400,000.
Forsythe said he tried to interest the owner of a Greensboro dive shop in leasing the lakes as sites for SCUBA-diving classes, but the talks fell through.