In the small town of Patterson, NY, about 30 minutes from my home, is a mine still in use for producing crushed stone, gravel and sand. This limestone quarry has been owned by Peckham Industries (www.peckham.com) since the 70’s, but was actively mined since the 1940’s. Thanks to the generosity of Peckham Industries, their kind and informative Vice President, Gary Metcalf, and the coordinating efforts of our local Naromi Land Trust (www.naromi.org), I was able to hike down into the spot where everything happens. What a blast . . . literally.
And speaking about the big bang, according to Gary Metcalf, the Patterson site blasts four to five times annually. One of eight owned and operated by Peckham Industries, Mr. Metcalf explained that the Patterson quarry can produce 100,000 tons annually, with the ability to meet increasing market demands. In an effort to answer questions regarding noise, Gary shared that there is also noise and dust periodically from the equipment that breaks up (crushes) the huge boulders into sand, gravel or crushed stone, and the traffic from trucks picking up and leaving the site with these products. He also noted that the sounds of the crushing equipment are often drowned out by the nearby passing trains.
What was also mentioned by Gary, and quite evident as you walked through the quarry itself, was that the entire property is surrounded by ‘The Great Swamp’, a 444 acre Wildlife Management Area that is comprised of ten separate parcels throughout Putnam County. Within feet of the driveways were wetlands, native trees, shrubs and plants, all thriving in this seemingly uninhabitable terrain. The contrast of boulders, piles of gravel and finely ground sand against the backdrop of changing foliage and blue sky was simply stunning. And the best was yet to come.
** Here are some other GREAT DESTINATIONS you may want to visit ~
Walking down into the quarry, which at its deepest point is 223′ below the surface, was quite an experience in itself. Examining the cuts in the stone, the horizontal layers (called shelves), the enormity of it all was absolutely breathtaking. As I walked lower and lower, taking photos at all angles and vantage points, it became evident that everywhere along the jagged stone cliff walls and at the base were signs of plant life. Purple blossoms of the rugged New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) were scattered about along with native aster and goldenrod, many growing out of a seemingly impervious small crack. At the base were some moist areas that provided a welcoming home for more flowering natives, grasses and even a few cattails. The combination of plants and course gravel seem an unlikely duo, yet the pairing worked surprisingly well.
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During the walk back out of the mine, I was able to get a different view of the trees that grew right up to the edge, some even tumbling over slightly. There were a few spots in the wall where a gentle trickle of water seeped through, offering a pleasant, peaceful sound that might not be heard during the day to day workings of the quarry. This water quietly dripping reminded me of what the future holds for this property; ultimately everything I viewed today will be reclaimed by the surrounding wilderness. In other words, within twenty years Peckham Industries will retire this great mine, allowing it to fill with water and be restored to a natural environment that can be enjoyed by both man and nature. Gary explained that due to the light color of the quarry walls and floor, once filled the water will become an unusual shade of aqua-blue. Now that is a sight I’m looking forward to seeing~