LYNCHBURG — A string of abandoned quarries in Nelson and Albemarle counties, including one where a teen’s body was recovered this past week, have drawn scrutiny as the weather warms and the community and public safety officials work to discourage people from swimming in deep ponds on the sites.
According to the Albemarle County Police Department, the body of 18-year-old Henry Christian Morin, of Doswell, was found Thursday. The suspected drowning was called into the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office at about 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The cause of death is under investigation by Albemarle police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The Schuyler Quarries are a string of quarries located along the border of Nelson and Albemarle counties. Although they are all on private property, some of them are popular swimming places in the summer, despite the deep waters containing unknown dangers and slick, steep foundations of soapstone.
“Kids just can’t do this anymore. It’s just so sad what happened to this young boy,” Sheila Mae, of Schuyler, said.
Mae said a Friends of Schuyler group formed in January to address issues in the community. At its most recent meeting on June 1 — attended by Nelson Supervisor Jesse Rutherford, Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford and Sheriff David Hill — members spoke about the need for policing in the quarry area.
“We were approaching it from the standpoint that it creates a traffic problem. They park all over the place and get inebriated and get belligerent when asked to move a car,” Mae said.
Mae said those who swim in the quarries also often leave behind debris, including clothes, beer cans, condoms and drug paraphernalia.
Since April 1, 71 summonses have been served by Nelson deputies for individuals trespassing on the property to get to one of the quarries.
Chadd Minor, who leases the land, said all of the quarries in the area spread between Nelson and Albemarle are potentially dangerous for visitors and of concern to residents in the area.
“This is terrible what happened. It’s awful,” Minor said about Morin.
Hill said concerns about trespassing in the area started to grow last August. Despite the “no trespassing” signs, the quarries remained a summer attraction. Hill said that when the weather gets warmer, his department sees a spike in concern, and recently has decided to prosecute trespassers they catch.
“I didn’t realize how dangerous they were. It’s like walking on ice,” Hill said after taking a trip recently to one of the quarries with Minor to help put up more “no trespassing” signs after others had been taken down.
Minor, who has worked on quarries for almost 10 years, said the quarries in Schuyler are some of the most dangerous he’s seen due to the slickness of the soapstone. Minor said he can see where large stones “in excess of millions of pounds” have slid off into the quarry and that no one can know when the foundation will slide again.
“That’s my big push toward trying to keep people out. It’s generations of people. They have always swam here,” he said.
Minor said some of the quarries can be as deep as 160 feet, and fears the one Morin was in was closer to that depth, saying it’s one of the bigger pits.
“It’s private property. It’s not a park. Unfortunately, with all the efforts I have been putting into stopping it, it’s taken this to maybe be an eye opener to realize this is dangerous,” he said.