The citing of nine young people, including three juveniles, on trespassing charges in the area of the Vernon's Pit quarry over the weekend has cast a renewed spotlight on stepped-up efforts by Gloucester police and public works officials to crack down on quarry parties that have long frustrated Lanesville neighbors and left reams of litter behind.
The nine youths were found gathered around a campfire at the quarry after police responded to calls reporting disturbances off Hickory Street at 2 a.m. on Sunday. Those summonsed to court range in age from 16 to 21, and all had come from Revere, Everett, Malden, Lynn or Somerville.
"It's gotten so out of control," resident Nick Parisi said Monday. He led a neighborhood-based cleanup effort Sunday that scooped up at least 15 full bags of trash that he and others hauled away.
The police report outlining the Sunday morning incident did not note the presence of alcohol, and added that the youths were "respectful" when told to leave. But that hasn't been the case in most instances; frustrated residents have expressed disgust over loud parties and trash left behind, while police and pubic works crews have boosted their efforts to provide more support.
Sunday's early-morning charges came a few days after police had 10 cars towed from surrounding streets, and are just the latest in a string of more than three dozen over the summer. The biggest roundup came June 15 when 18 people who ranged in age from 18 to 24 were caught at Klondike Reservoir, part of the city's drinking water supply.
There is a posted "no trespassing" zone around Klondike as a water source that extends throughout the watershed to near Vernon's Pit, said city public works director Mike Hale.
"Police have made a huge difference with their presence, in towing cars and in all that they're doing," added Parisi, who lives on Morgan Street. "It's been very noticeable, but it's still frustrating. Everyone is sick of it. There's no respect for our privacy, our property, nothing."
The issue is not limited to Gloucester. Rockport Police Chief John Horvath said Monday his department also has regular patrols checking areas around its quarries, some of which serve as that town's water sources.
"We do spend a fair amount of time up in those areas," he said, adding that the officers emphasize to visitors that swimming and diving, especially, can be a dangerous mix with alcohol.
"It actually gives us a chance to maybe interact more than we do with some of our young people," he said.
Patrols added around pits
In Gloucester, Hale noted Vernon's and Nelson's quarries are within city land and subject to city bans against underage drinking, having open containers of alcohol and campfires, among other violations. However, Vernon's and Nelson's are not off-limits to swimming, Hale said, and swimming and diving in the pits remains a longstanding Gloucester summer pastime.
But the interaction between quarry partiers and Lanesville residents has often become contentious due to excessive drinking and littering by visitors. And both police and the Department of Public Works have beefed up monitoring around Klondike, Vernon's and Nelson's alike.
Assistant Chief of Police John McCarthy said his department has added patrols in the area, and utilizes three all-terrain-vehicles purchased through the use of drug seizure money to better reach the quarries — and the trespassers.
He said he, Hale, Ward 4 City Councilor Val Gilman, and Lanesville neighbors have been staying in touch to better monitor the quarries and parking complaints that have persisted on streets such as High, Hickory, Morgan and even down to Washington Street as it passed through the village center.
"The hot weather helps bring (quarry swimmers, divers and partiers) out all the time," McCarthy said, "and now social media is bringing in more when you have YouTube showing kids jumping off 60-foot cliffs. But we're trying to make sure people know the quarries are there for people to enjoy, not abuse."
Less respect, maybe not more people
Hale, who lives in Lanesville, said he's not sure there are more young people descending on the quarries than in the past.
"I grew up swimming in the quarries here and in Pigeon Cove," he said, "and as far as the numbers of people go, I don't know if it's much different. But some things have changed as far as the respect shown by visitors to our community. I think there's a level of frustration and exhaustion being felt by a lot of the residents, and the amount of litter that's being left behind is really leaving a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of of people.
"Look, this is our backyard," he said. "Watershed protection is paramount to me and to our department — part of this is a public health issue. But beyond that, I don't understand who these people are who come in and thought it was OK to just leave behind bottles, cans, trash. How can they think that's OK? It's not OK here, and I don't think it's OK anywhere."
A swim could be costly
Gilman noted that the increased policing — Hale's public works department is covering the cost of added police details and ATV patrols — should deliver the intruders another message.
Trespassing and littering in Klondike, Nelson's and Vernon's quarries is against the law, and can be costly. She noted that it costs $159 for a motorist to get his or her car out of Tally's facility in Blackburn Industrial Park after it's been towed there from Lanesville, and that's topped by a $15 ticket for illegal parking, and added charges if a driver is under the influence and has to leave the car overnight.
She said the city has done a good job posting the related streets for resident parking only and as tow zones from May 1 to Sept. 15. She said she and other councilors want to take a look at the end of the summer season to see whether the city can or should do more to discourage those who abuse the quarries from doing so.
"What we're really trying to do more than anything else right now is to tackle this by enforcing the parking (regulations)," she said. "If we can continue to be vigilant about enforcement, then the quarries will remain the gems they have always been."
"We want this land and the (Vernon's and Nelson's) quarries to be there for people to enjoy, not abuse," McCarthy said.
Staff writer Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.