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Joyce Endee

Amendment to Forest Ordinance proposed to protect crystal mine

A dozen volunteers recovered a large crystal plate this summer at a mine located in the Randolph Community Forest (RCF), north of Route 2. Recent theft and vandalism have led town boards to prepare a draft amendment to the Town Forest Ordinance, designed to regulate public access to the resource, that townspeople will vote on at the March 2013 Town Meeting. Randolph Planning Board-Forest Commission chairman John Scarinza, left, and town moderator David Willcox, right, participated in unearthing the plate that will be displayed in a town building. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
November 28, 2012
RANDOLPH — At the recommendation of the Randolph Forest Commission, the Planning Board is refining the wording for an amendment to the Town Forest Ordinance designed to create the authority to regulate access to the crystal mine located on the Randolph Community Forest (RCF). After holding a public hearing in January, the proposed amendment would be presented to voters under a warrant article at the March 12, 2013, town meeting, according to the Board's Nov. 1 minutes.

The General Electric Company worked the crystal mine during World War II. Lifelong resident Alan Lowe has reported that GE hauled ox carts full of crystals out of this mine for use in manufacturing radios as part of the war effort. After the war ended in 1945 and radio technology changed, the mine was blown up, likely a couple of times by various landowners to prevent people from entering it and getting lost or hurt.

Hobby gem collectors, however, discovered a man-hole-sized point of entry to part of the mine, and they used it for many years.

When the conservation easement governing land use within the RCF was being negotiated, the Presidential Gem and Mineral Society asked that its right to explore the mine could be protected. As a result, a specific provision allows for non-commercial hobby mineral collecting. Over the last 10 years the Society members and their guests have used the mine from time to time without any problems. Some Society members led one of the early Randolph Forest Day tours up to the mine, and many of those on that trip were able to go down into the mine and enjoy the sight of crystals glittering all around them.

Because the mine is located in a secluded spot that is not easy to find for someone unfamiliar with the site, the Randolph Forest Commission had always assumed that its remoteness would protect it, and, for the last 10 years, that seemed to do so.

But last summer that all changed. Presidential Gem and Mineral Society members reported serious vandalism at the mine. Someone was ripping off the covering layer of earth and rock and breaking off large plates of crystals, apparently with the aim of selling them.

Planning Board-Forest Commission chairman John Scarinza, a retired Commander of Troop F of the State Police, caught the alleged perpetrator, who is now charged with breaking a condition of a state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) conservation easement.

In light of this, the Forest Commission has reconsidered its approach to the crystal mine. Instead of avoiding publicity and relying on its seclusion to protect it, the Commission would now like to have the regulatory power to limit access to the mine site, as permitted by the DRED conservation easement. If the town designates the site as a "natural area," as proposed in the draft amendment, then an existing state statute would make it a class A misdemeanor to vandalize or deface a geological formation or rock surface that is so designated. While these steps would not guarantee protection for the mine, the town's ability to prosecute violators would be enhanced.

If the amendment passes, the Forest Commission also intends to post notices at the mine site, so that visitors cannot claim they were unaware of the town's rules.

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Varney Smith
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