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Signs like these, posted on gates at a quarry in the town of Superior, aim to keep trespassers out. But two incidents of trespassing along with damage to gates were reported at Superior quarries last month. The practice of sneaking onto mining sites to swim is not only illegal, it’s dangerous, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Trespass could lead to trouble at mine sites

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Risky behavior has been noted in the town of Superior. Trespassers left broken gates behind them during incidents at two separate quarries in July. Both are active mining sites owned by area businesses.

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The first incident took place between the evening of July 16 and the morning of July 17 at a gravel pit on Thunder Hill Trail owned by Udeen Trucking. Employees noticed two cars parked inside a gated fence when they left for the night, according to a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office report. When the employees returned the next morning, the gate had been damaged and the cars were gone. Using the license plate numbers from the two cars, deputies contacted the owners, a 20-year-old Lake Nebagamon man and an 18-year-old Superior man. They told deputies they went there to go swimming in a pool near the pit. The report indicates the Lake Nebagamon man will be issued a citation for criminal damage to property. No record of the citation was found in a search of online court records. The damage to the gate was estimated at $500.

Deputies were called to a rock quarry less than a mile away from the Thunder Hill Trail gravel pit on July 31. The site is owned by RJS Construction Group. According to the sheriff’s office report, kids had been swimming in the quarry. They broke the gate and tore down “no trespassing” signs. Deputies noticed vehicle trails throughout the property as well as beer cans, pop cans and trash strewn about the quarry. A campfire area and a possible tent site were also found. No one had permission to be on the property or to cause the estimated $200 damage to the gate.

Going through those gates onto private property to swim is illegal, according to Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec. It’s also dangerous. If young people want to hang out, he said, they should find a safer, legal place to do so.

“It’s still trespassing,” Dalbec said.

A trespassing citation carries a $350 fine, according to the sheriff’s office. Criminal damage to property can net a fine of $300.

Dalbec also stressed the dangers people can encounter at such sites. Quarry pools may have jagged rocks lurking under the surface and loose gravel for trespassers to slip on. These areas are remote, so even if there is cell phone service it will take a while for emergency personnel to arrive.

In a typical year about 20 to 30 people die in accidents that occur in abandoned mines and quarries across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. There have been 381 fatal accidents of non-employees reported at active and abandoned mines since 1999, at least 15 of them in Wisconsin, according to statistics available on the department website. Although the majority were drowning incidents, they also included falls and vehicle accidents. To date, there have been five quarry drowning incidents nationwide in 2014.

The Mining Safety and Health Administration launched a national public awareness campaign, “Stay Out! Stay Alive!” in 1999 to warn children and adults about the dangers of exploring or playing on active and abandoned mine sites. More information the dangers can be found at www.msha.gov/SOSA/SOSAhome.asp.

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