Craig Olander takes a leap from the high dive at the Quarry. A long-time lifeguard at the swim club, Olander was named a manager last summer. (File photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

On a bitterly cold Saturday in January, a capacity crowd gathered in the unheated Train Station, shivering in the frigid room, but nonetheless warmed by shared memories of lazy summer days spent at the Quarry Swim Club.

Bundled head to toe in winter gear, the group came for a “Save the Quarry” presentation given by the newly-formed nonprofit, Friends of Hopewell Quarry. Attendees were eager to hear of plans for preserving the nearly 100-year-old swimming hole on the outskirts of the borough.

Since the early 1900s, the 7.44-acre site on Crusher Road has been owned by only three families, most recently Jim and Nancy Gypton, who bought the business in 1988. A few years ago, the couple began preparing to retire and sell the business, a thriving summer swim club in a natural, camp-like setting.

Toward the end of the 2016 season, club member Jana Pika approached the Gyptons about forming a nonprofit to not only own and operate the swim club, but also to preserve the land. To that end, she and several other avid quarry fans formed the Friends of Hopewell Quarry, a nonprofit organization.

“Our goal is to preserve the natural beauty of the quarry and to operate it as an accessible public swimming hole,” Pika said.

Because of its mission to preserve land, the nonprofit can seek state Green Acres funding, said board member Scot Pannepacker. In this undertaking, the Friends will have a powerful ally.

The D&R Greenway Land Trust has agreed to guide them in their mission, he said, adding that they have already referred experts and will help with the Green Acres application process.

The group’s efforts are in the early stages. The board—comprised of Pika, Pannepacker, J. David Waldman and Melanie Staff-Parsons—has hired an appraiser who will set a value on the land, buildings and improvements, and the swim club business after a site visit in February.

Talks with the Gyptons will begin after that step has been taken. For their part, Jim and Nancy Gypton are eager to work with the Friends.

“Originally, we bought the business because we loved the Hopewell area and wanted to set down roots,” Nancy Gypton said. “Over the years, people would share with us their happy memories of swimming here as children. It made us realize how important this place is and how very few places stay as we remember them from our past.”

Long-time member Paul Buda, a Hopewell Borough resident who was at the meeting, couldn’t agree more.

“I tell people that the quarry is a community center with water,” he said. Buda says he has not only made friends there, but has also gained clients for his architectural business chatting with other members.

The 55-foot-deep quarry was a working rock quarry into the early 1900’s. But pumping out the water from underground springs made quarrying increasingly difficult, and in 1916, the quarry closed. The property came down through the family of Amos C. Bond to his son, William J. Bond.

As word spread about the swimming hole, locals began climbing the fences to swim. Eventually, the family charged admission, started hosting events, and, in 1928, incorporated the business. William Bond died in 1936, leaving the business to his six children. Daughter Annie Bond and her husband Dezzie Casey managed the business for decades, and in 1970, son-in-law Forrest Lowe took over. In 1975, the family sold the property to William James, from whom the Gyptons bought it.

Lowe’s daughters, Julie Lowe Osborn and Marcia Lowe, who still live in Hopewell, hope the Friends can secure the future of the Quarry. They remember fondly their childhood days as “Quarry Rats.”

“We basically lived there. We rode our bikes there every day. We’d have sleepovers with our cousins and in the winter, when our dad let us, we’d ice skate when the water froze over,” Lowe said. “We had jobs—we worked the snack bar, the front gate, the pool. One of my jobs was to watch the cliffs to make sure no one was trying to dive off.”

In the mid-1900’s, Osborn says, the quarry was alive with events that drew crowds for swimming and diving competitions sponsored by the American Red Cross. These events could attract hundreds of people.

By 2003, however, the Gyptons found it necessary to control access with a membership and pass system. Crowds, coupled with unruly patrons, were creating an unsafe and unpleasant environment, Nancy Gypton said. Since then, the quarry’s revenues have been gained through season and half-season memberships, multiple-day single-owner passes, guest fees, swim lessons and camps.

At the meeting, several people expressed concern that the serene atmosphere of today’s quarry could be compromised by taking on the Green Acres mandate of public access.
“It’s something we don’t know yet—what ‘public’ will mean,” said Waldman. “We can envision offering things like scuba diving, frisbee or volleyball tournaments and yoga classes. We want to create a vibrant space that offers access, but without compromising the beauty and serenity of this special place.”

In the past, the Hopewell community has banded together to preserve open space, as with the St. Michael’s property and Gazebo Park. Staff-Parsons put out a call to rally behind green space once again.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our community to come together again to preserve an area of natural beauty that is literally in the heart of Hopewell,” she said.

The short-term goals of the Friends are to fund appraisal and legal fees, and staff volunteer committees. For the future, though, all parties involved—the Friends, the Gyptons, and quarry regulars past and present—have a single goal: To ensure the quarry opens its gates on Memorial Day weekend for generations to come.

For more information or to volunteer, e-mail friendsofhopewellquarry@gmail.com or visit the facebook page.

To support preservation efforts, make checks payable to Friends of Hopewell Quarry and send c/o Lear & Pannepacker LLP, 791 Alexander Road, Princeton NJ 08540-6325. All contributions are tax deductible.