Lime Crest Quarry, 2001

(35mm)


There's one subject that's very closely tied to the emotions of mineral and fossil collectors: site closures. For a variety of reasons, many once-great collecting areas are no longer accessible: housing developments, parking lots, golf courses, and "no trespassing" signs have greedily gobbled up collecting sites during the past few decades. The rate seems to have accelerated since the 1980's.
Talking about closed sites is a great way to make certain people angry-- especially the owners of the property that's closed. Why?  No one likes to hear that their decision was a bad one, or unpopular with certain groups, or anything negative.
I've been thinking about the concept of obligation as it applies here. An operating quarry does not have an obligation to allow collectors in.  However (and this is a big however): a locality which is mineralogically unique in the world-- such as Franklin-- does in my opinion have an obligation to preserve its mineral sites from the ravages of housing developments, shopping centers, and so forth. When a site is paved over and built upon, usually there is no going back... unless you or I get rich some day, buy 'em out, and tear up the asphalt to let trees grow and collectors in once again.  Of course if there are too many trees, there's no room for the rocks....

There are two extremes of thinking behind the tug-of-war that has been going on for decades in the industrialized world.  One extreme would like to seal off vast tracts of land from all human activity;  the other would like to cram as many tract houses onto the face of the earth as possible.  Neither extreme seems especially interested in the wants or needs of the average Joe and Jane.  
The good news-- there has to be some good news in all this!-- is that there are people who appreciate a bit of moderation and who work to keep collecting sites open.  In the eastern states such as New Jersey, the private sector has kept more mineral sites open than has the public sector;  however, there are stand-out examples of government-run collecting sites (e.g., Crater of Diamonds in Arkansas).  

The list of closed sites in New Jersey alone is considerable.  Keep in mind that the status of a site can change, but once it's paved over or flooded with water, that's pretty much the end of it.


Lime Crest Quarry, Sparta, NJ. According to the "official line", a big multinational bought the quarry to shut it down.  That's only part of the story.  What happened first was that a couple of people moved in next to the quarry and started complaining about the noise and the dust.   Many locals remember this well.  It was a pretty big deal at the time.  If you want to believe that Lime Crest is now flooded solely because of some multinational, then go ahead.  I would, however, ask you two questions...
1.)  Why was the quarry even for sale in the first place?
2.)  If transportation costs are really that low, then why don't all US quarries shut down and just import bulk stone from overseas?
Hey, people, here's a word of advice: If you don't want to live next to an operating quarry that's been there for over a hundred years, then don't move there in the first place.


Above:  Carnelian from Stirling Brook near Watchung, NJ.  There are conflicting reports about this site's status.  For now it's in a grey area, but I'll keep it on the endangered list.


Amber collecting site, Sayreville area, NJ.  The old "Sayreville Clay Pits" yielded quite a few fossils, including insects in amber.  According to this site, many of the best locations around Sayreville are now underneath housing developments.  There remains only a small portion accessible.


American Copper Company mine dumps, Bridgewater area, NJ. Private property; malachite, azurite, native copper, and chrysocolla are now beneath a bunch of houses. No trespassing.


Atlas Quarry, Hamburg, NJ. Housing complexes and tennis courts are just about everywhere. Good specimens of corundum are very rare. Guess what happened, then. 

I've heard that in the past couple of years there have been FOMS collecting trips to the Atlas Quarry, so all is not lost here.  I guess there were some areas where houses couldn't fit.


Chimney Rock Quarry, Bound Brook, NJ.  Emphatically closed to collectors; patrolled vigorously.  
I wouldn't be surprised if it had to do with perceived liability.  That has closed off so many good things in our world. 


Farber Quarry between Franklin and Ogdensburg, New Jersey.
There was talk of housing developments or condos for a while, but for the time being it appears the quarry is still alright.  Now that Lime Crest is pretty much gone, the Farber is probably the best opening into the Franklin Marble.  I really hope it stays that way.
It gets me thinking, though.  There's a special kind of effrontery that goes with naming housing developments and their thoroughfares;  I wouldn't be surprised to see a "Norbergite Street" or a "Marble Drive" spring up where the rocks used to be. 


Frontier Road copper collecting site, Bridgewater, NJ. Now the home of an office building and a sports arena. "No Trespassing" signs and security cameras abound. 


Lake Valhalla serpentine and diopside locality, Montville, NJ. This is part of a park now. Collecting is apparently not allowed. They want the specimens to remain in the ground "so everyone can enjoy them"... in their imaginations.


Mill Site, Franklin, New Jersey.
I've spoken to a few Franklin collectors who've said the Mill Site is now gone;  however, some of the rock was transferred to the Museum.  I'm told that at some point this material will be open to collecting.  This is a much better outcome than the rocks simply being plowed under and built upon.  It is encouraging to see that the property owner was at least somewhat sympathetic to the heritage of Franklin.
Speaking of heritage, the town of Franklin needs to realize how the rest of the world views it- as a place for minerals.  It's possibly the most famous mineral locality on earth.  That's not something you can just go out and build or buy.  
Ask yourself why else anyone would want to travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to visit a place like Franklin and spend money there.  There are a million strip malls and amusement parks already.  There is only one Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.  It can never be replaced by any ten of those fake "gem mining" places, either.  (You know, the places where they sell dyed polished rocks and heat-treated chalcopyrite).  People go to Franklin because it's genuine.
I've criticized the town planners of Franklin in the past (see below under "Parker Dump").  Some have disagreed with me.  Since the 1950's, 60's, and 70's were such pivotal years for the future of Franklin's sites, I believe much blame still rests on the decision makers of that era.  To them, the big piles of mine rocks were a nuisance.  If only they'd had a broader perspective and more of an appreciation for the uniqueness of their town.  In this modern age of broken families, gang violence, and diminished regard for one's fellow humans, there are probably a lot of towns that wish their biggest problem was a huge pile of fluorescent minerals that occurred nowhere else in the world and attracted tourists from nearly everywhere. 


Millington Quarry, Millington, NJ.
This is what happened, at least how I've heard it from people who used to collect there:  Somebody on a collecting trip in the past wouldn't stay away from a hazardous area... even after repeated warnings. Result: everyone out!   No more collecting trips there. 
It all goes back to the mentality that's taken over our society.  Some people like to blame others for their own carelessness;  this has saddled everyone with hidden cost increases, on just about any commodity or thing that could be imagined.


Parker Dump, Franklin, NJ.
The town built its firehouse and a parking lot directly on top of the Parker in 1963. In my opinion, this was the first of a series of grievous mistakes by the town of Franklin in [not] preserving the area's mineral heritage. 
Someone emailed me and defended Franklin's choice of location for a firehouse, saying it "saved lives".  If I bulldozed a unique landmark, or someone's house, and put a hospital in its place, that would "save lives" too.  The fact of the matter would remain that the location was a poor choice. 
It really amazes me that Franklin's town planners were so short-sighted in the past.  Will they do better in the future? (see above, under "Mill Site", for more about this)


Schuster Park, Franklin, NJ.  Some very fine margarosanites came from this area, not to mention other good finds.  There were Parker Shaft minerals that had been dumped there years ago during the mining operation... so the town of Franklin covered it with a park and a helipad. 


Scrub Oaks Iron Mine dumps, Dover, NJ.  This one used to be in "Mineral and Gem Trails", and of course it's off limits (or at least it was when we went there).  There used to be some good specimens found here, including the rare-earth mineral synchysite (var. "doverite").


Taylor Road, Franklin, NJ. Private property; covered by houses during the past 20 years or so. 

Update:  The Taylor Road Dump is a small remnant of its former self (primarily due to development), so I won't remove it from this list, but in the past few years there have been some collecting trips to the remnants of it.  Abundant credit is due to the local man who generously donated the property to the Franklin Mineral Museum in order to preserve its mineral heritage.  Thanks also go to the museum for doing what they do, of course.


Scheelite Locality
Trumbull, Connecticut.
This is obviously not a Jersey locality, but I just thought I'd mention that it's now beneath a home-improvement store.   Since most of us can visit such a place locally, the good news is that we no longer need to stay in hotels or visit restaurants in Trumbull, CT. 

There's nothin' wrong with home improvement stores, but guys:  it's supposed to go NEXT TO the collecting site, not ON the collecting site. We need a place to buy chisels, hammers, buckets, and goggles, while still being able to have somewhere good to use them.



Schuyler Copper Mine, North Arlington, NJ.
One of the oldest mines in the country, the Schuyler Mine was founded around 1715 and once yielded distinctive specimens of pseudomalachite.  I have not visited this site, but I understand it was closed to collectors years ago.


Upper New Street Quarry, West Paterson, NJ.
Quite possibly one of the world's most famous zeolite locations, this quarry once yielded some magnificent prehnites, heulandites, pectolites, and even amethyst quartz crystals.  Last I saw the place, it was vacant, fenced-in, and surrounded by condos.  

As I understand it, the locality has been closed to collectors.  If someone can provide an update or some first-hand info, I'd appreciate it.


Zeolite quarries, Lambertville, NJ.
Nevermind what you see in that old field trip guide. It's a prison work camp now.  Don't go near it or they'll arrest you. 
When my mom took me there as a kid in the 1980's (we were following one of those "mineral and gem trails" books) they threatened to arrest us just for going up to the front and asking questions.  Nice folks, they were.

What can you do?
For sites that are already closed, there's usually nothing you can do. To preserve sites that are still open, join your local rock / mineral / fossil club! Why not join a couple of them? You don't have to live in an area to join its mineral club. Just stay active and make your voice heard... just try to stay rational and keep your cool in any heated debates that arise. It is up to every collector to portray us all as a responsible bunch. Once in a while, clubs are able to open up new areas to collecting-- if they can give a favorable impression of collectors.
Museums are another fine resource for those interested in rocks, minerals, and fossils. However, if all collecting localities were to disappear, I'd bet that mineral museums would begin to close up from lack of serious interest. I for one have little interest in going to a museum in which none of the mineral species can still be field-collected.
Conversely, being able to collect specimens of classic Franklin and Sterling Hill minerals-- in the field, under the sun-- makes it worth the long drive to get there.


Environmentalism can work either for or against the mineral collector.  There is a reflexive response  to take an area and seal it off to nearly every kind of public use, then to manage it by hiring a bunch of snide bureaucrats and iron-fisted park rangers with the power to detain you indefinitely for stepping on a wildflower.

To the mineral hobbyist, environmentalism in moderation is certainly more of a friend than wanton overdevelopment and a world covered in condominiums and apartment complexes.  Obviously, though, the "take only pictures, leave only footprints" philosophy should not apply to certain places. It is important to remember that most minerals survive much longer in collections than they do outside on the ground or near the surface, where acid rain, freeze-thaw cycles, and other environmental factors ultimately destroy them.

If people hadn't salvaged specimens from some of the great localities a hundred years ago, these specimens wouldn't simply be unavailable;  many of them wouldn't exist at all.

Turning an endangered locality into a park may sound like a good idea, but this usually leads to strict rules against collecting anything (for an example, see below: "Quartz Crystal Locality").  The worst of all happens when you start out with a unique place like that, but then you put someone in charge of it who doesn't even know anything about it or have any real appreciation for it.

You can ride your bicycle or take a hike through many different places, but you can find certain minerals in only one place on earth. 


For a new collector, one of the surest disappointments is to get hold of an old book called "Mineral and Gem Trails" of such-and-such area (they made them for many states from the 60's through the 80's) only to find 99% of the areas are absolutely closed to collectors.
  When I was a child, my family took me around on wild goose chases to almost all of the sites listed for New Jersey.  Of them all, only the Buckwheat Dump and the Trotter Dump were still truly open to collectors.  As years passed, the Trotter closed, leaving only the Buckwheat (more on that later).
  Looking on the bright side, this was before the Hauck brothers acquired and opened up the Sterling Hill locality to collectors.  The world needs more people like Dick and Bob Hauck.




Quartz Crystal Locality - Montague, NJ.  I hadn't even known about this one until I met up with Jeff Wilson at the 2008 Sterling Hill "Diggg".  The quartz crystals that came out of this site were truly stunning, especially for New Jersey.  I'm talking about water-clear, flawless quartz crystals that rivaled Arkansas material (Arkansas collectors will find that an exaggeration, I'm sure).
For decades there had been collecting on the site.  Then, in 2007, the site became State property.  I was under the distinct impression that the site was thus off-limits.
I saw on Mindat that some local collectors, including David Bernstein and Jeff Wilson, did a trash cleanup of the site (the trash having been left by non-collectors, in all probability...).  Hopefully people will begin to realize that mineral collecting is a positive thing.
In 2000 or so I had heard of another quartz crystal locality in Sussex County, this one closer to Hamburg.  I'm fairly certain the Hamburg site is no longer open.  I understand it was obliterated to make way for some construction. 

Whether it's accessible or not, I'm leaving the Montague site on this page, simply because it represents the kinds of good sites that are in constant danger from either overdevelopment or over-regulation (both of which Jersey is famous for).

Before we automatically accept the pronouncement that a mineral resource must always be treated to one of the two extremes (i.e., obliteration on the one hand, being made off-limits on the other), let us consider Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.  I consider the fee-dig model to be a win-win situation.  It doesn't cause global warming, either.












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