Even if you’ve never dipped a toe in our town’s famous Quarry, I bet you were heartbroken upon reading that the infamous high dive, ground zero for cannonballs, belly flops and adrenaline-filled screams, is closed — and perhaps permanently so.
To speak ill against the Quarry counts as local sacrilege; you may as well say you hate limestone architecture, bucolic waterfalls or cement manufacturing. The swimming hole and its fear-inducing high dive are firmly part of our town’s collective cultural experience. It’s unique and it’s ours.
Part of the fun of the high dive is the sheer terror it invokes; it’s like a riding a roller coaster or watching a horror movie. Who wouldn’t want to master that fear, especially if it means impressing your friends on a hot summer day? Count me in as one of those too scared to try the high dive, but I’ve heard it’s quite the thrill to make the jump; watching the spectacle is almost as fun. If anything is hurt, it’s usually only an ego. Jumpers and audience alike enjoy the show, in all its simple summertime glory.
But wouldn’t it be awful if someone was seriously hurt? Imagine the black mark that would bring to our town’s best attraction, and our town itself. Depending on the severity of the injury — and hopefully it would “just” be an injury — the Quarry would likely have to be closed for investigation for a period of time, and then the high dive (and maybe its cousin, the diving cliff) would be unceremoniously removed. How many tourists would want to come for a visit, or return? And how many local parents would continue to allow their children to toddle off to the south end of town for a supposedly fun afternoon in the sun?
Our town has been very fortunate in that none of this has come to pass, at least, not yet. And that’s what the Lifesaving Society is rightfully concerned for. To immediately dismiss this concern in the name of hometown self-righteousness is foolhardy: the high dive is awfully high for a recreational pool filled with recreational swimmers. I, for one, would like to see the exact issues the Lifesaving Society has with the high dive before town staff and Council jump to a closure decision. Is it with small children making the leap? Water levels? The springiness of the platform?
One of the high dive’s best safety features is the fear that deters so many from using it. But for those who have no fear, perhaps we could take a page from international aquatic standards. The exact height depends on the water level below, but if we’re comparing it to Olympic diving standards, it’s somewhere between the 3m springboard and the 5m platform. According to the International Swimming Federation (also known as FINA), which governs aquatic competitions, children can begin diving off the 5m platform at age 11. The Lifesaving Society has no statistics on its website.
Despite its name, you can’t jump off the high dive, but if you could, FINA guidelines suggest the Quarry would have to be at least 4m deep to be safe for diving from 5m up. Considering most high dive jumpers aren’t professionally trained the same depth guidelines would likely apply for our Quarry. If it’s too shallow to be safe, so be it. If some kids are too young to safely use it, so be it.
Problematically, the Quarry is owned by a municipality in an increasingly litigious society; certain rules must be followed. But at the same time, the lifeguards do a terrific job limiting those who don’t use the high dive properly, and stringently adhere to the low water level closure rules. The Quarry’s high dive, as simple and unique as it is, has an impressive safety record — and that shouldn’t be ignored in this process. Let’s strive to keep the big splash of the high dive alive.
At least other St. Marys summer traditions are allowed to continue unabated, including the First Baptist Church’s scrumptious salad lunch. Over 400 were served an impressive meal last Friday, right down to that delicious vinaigrette dressing the greens. Patsy Joosee was kind enough to share her recipe with us — our summer salads thank you!
1/2 cup white sugar
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt, pinch of dry mustard powder
Pinch of black pepper
At least 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves (stems removed)
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until mint is chopped finely. Store in the refrigerator and return to room temperature when using again. Remember to shake well before putting it on your salad greens, as it tends to separate.