ELMHURST – Standing in the same area where NASA purportedly filmed astronauts “landing on the moon” nearly 50 years ago, stormwater management committee chairman Jim Zay told reporters gathered at the bottom of the Elmhurst Quarry’s east lobe Friday afternoon that safety measures and security precautions are still being finalized as the flood control facility prepares to open later this month for a day of tours.
A signed waiver from visitors and the implementation of a “buddy system” are just two of the ways that DuPage County and the Elmhurst History Museum are working together to protect classified areas of the massive reservoir and to assure ticket-holders for the sold-out quarry tours on September 30th that they will return unharmed. Zay acknowledged that 28 people were unaccounted for at the conclusion of the last set of quarry tours in 2015.
“We’ve made several changes this year to improve safety,” said Zay, who assumes that most of those who went missing two years ago were persuaded to join a colony of former Elmhurst residents who have been voluntarily living in an uncharted section of the quarry since the early 1990’s. “But with more than 500 visitors booked this time, getting back with 100% of them is asking a lot.”
After parachuting to the bottom of the 200-foot east lobe, tour visitors will be required to wear hard hats for protection from falling debris and trash that is occasionally thrown over the perimeter fence from vehicles driving along the high rock wall that supports West Ave. DuPage County Archeologist Sam Weaver will discuss the latest fossils uncovered in the quarry, while Zay himself will explain how the facility is used to manage stormwater. Visitors will also get their first look at a recently-completed monument dedicated to former York High School cross-country Joe Newton and local rock band The Orwells.
A 15-pound souvenir rock will be given to each person on the tour before they climb their way out of the quarry, along with a coupon for 15% off their next purchase of 100 pounds or more of wet cement.