Liquid Asset

Each rainfall is turning and old stone quarry into a new body of water_and deepest lake in the state

May 30, 2006|By LINELL SMITH | LINELL SMITH,SUN REPORTER

North of Mount Washington, a new lake is growing. On a sunny morning a hawk soars overhead, riding thermals. Geese fly into the former crushed marble quarry, settling on crystal green water. Nearby, the buzz of building construction recalls a century of other men and machinery that once mined this property.

It is a dramatic transformation. After years of furnishing material for Baltimore's best-known roads and buildings, the old Greenspring Quarry is making money in a very 21st-century way. It is becoming Quarry Lake - the centerpiece and key selling point for a new upscale development of homes, offices and shops.

On Greenspring Avenue between the city line and the Beltway, the deep, stone-flanked quarry is filling slowly, rainstorm by rainstorm, as it has for the past six years. When the water has reached ground level, several years from now, Quarry Lake will become the deepest lake in Maryland.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Today section yesterday incorrectly stated that Loch Raven Reservoir supplies hydroelectric power.
The Sun regrets the errors.

It will be 400, maybe 450, feet deep. It will command 42 acres and its perimeter will measure about 2 1/2 miles.

"That's one big mother of a lake. Wow," says 80-year-old naturalist Charlie Stine. He's standing in the overlook gazebo next to the development's homes sales trailer. Like many Baltimoreans, Stine had heard of the Greenspring Quarry over the years but never saw it before it closed New Year's Eve 1999. Now he's momentarily taken aback.

"What did you say the deepest part this lake would be? Four hundred and fifty feet? That's almost two to three times as deep as the deepest part of the Chesapeake Bay," he says. "I'm talking about the part that's a little south of the Bay Bridge and is clocked at about 174 feet deep."

The view from the gazebo shows a work in progress, a portrait of what this place has been and where it intends to go: From the deep chasm - part of a rock hoist is still visible - to mounds of earth signifying single-family home neighborhoods with names such as The Highlands and Creekside. To the north is a complex of offices and shops. To the west is a muddy-brown promontory that will have 240 condominiums known as The Bluffs.

And what about flora and fauna?

"I am overwhelmed at how fast nature will respond to a gigantic hole in the earth like this," says Stine, who teaches ecology in the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

"Last night, on the way to teach my class, I counted how many cracks in the sidewalk were filled in with lichens and grasses. If you just give it a little chance, life will prevail."

Maryland has no naturally occurring lakes. They have all been constructed by damming rivers, says Jim Reger of the Maryland Geological Survey. Whether a body of water is called a "lake" or a "reservoir" is usually determined by its use. If it's largely recreational, such as Deep Creek Lake or Lake Linganore, it tends to be called a lake. If it supplies drinking water and hydroelectric power, such as Loch Raven, it tends to be called a reservoir.

Quarry Lake may become a body of water meant only for admiring. Although there will be no swimming or boating in the near future, according to Beazer Homes, neighborhood associations may decide one day to permit such activities.

Attorney Elliot Lewis, who lives a third of a mile away, is already a fan. He's taken by the unusually vivid color of the rising water. He calls it turquoise, emerald and a "great asset to the community."

"People will naturally come here," he predicts. Quarry Lake will form one more twist in the long human history of this site. Long before Beazer Homes and Obrecht Properties took over the 230 acres, long before Arundel Corp. began running the quarry, this spot was a rolling pastoral landscape belonging to 19th-century businessman Arunah S. Abell, founder of The Sun. Quarry historian Johnny Johnsson says the quarry's first appearance in geological literature was in 1929. By the 1950s, as the needs of a construction-hungry Baltimore increased, the quarry pit had grown wider and deeper, eventually becoming the "mini-canyon" Johnsson calls it today.

As with giant redwoods, it's difficult to grasp this kind of size close up - even harder to hold in memory. You might think of the hole you would create by removing 35 million tons of stone from the earth. Or you might visualize what those tons have helped create: the roadbeds of Interstates 695 and 795, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, Harborplace, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the Hyatt Regency hotel - what Johnsson calls "legacy construction."

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