Hammonton Lake is a tremendous natural resource
Hammonton Lake has been here longer than any of us, and while it is a human-made lake, it is one of the most significant natural resources in the town. It is part of Hammonton’s natural beauty, as sure as our forested areas and farmlands are.
There is a thought-provoking article about the lake by Joseph F. Berenato on the front page of this week’s edition. I would suggest reading it before you read the remainder of this column—unless you’ve already read it.
What makes the article significant is the objective points of view quoted in it, by qualified researchers who are bringing their knowledge and skills to studying the lake. The hope is that their studies will lead to positive solutions to the challenges the lake faces.
The Gazette has covered the efforts to keep the lake a positive natural resource as long as we’ve existed. During that nearly 25-year period, we’ve covered everything from the installation of the Clean-Flo system to discussions about underground springs to debates about whether swimming should be returned to the lake or not.
We watched the lake’s shoreline in Hammonton Lake Park dramatically change, with the beach completely removed in recent years.
People currently fish on the well-stocked lake. It’s nice for boating, a jewel in the middle of Hammonton that in the fall provides some of the most beautiful views of fall foliage.
Hammonton Lake is beautiful in every season.
At one time, Camp Tuscaloosa was based at Hammonton Lake Park. I learned to swim by blowing bubbles in the tea-colored water. We almost took it for granted—until later in life, when the ability to swim in its waters was taken away because of high fecal coliform counts.
These counts were not an issue when I was young, and our mother would drive us to my great-Aunt Juliet Falciani’s house on the lake next to William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital on Central Avenue. We’d jump out of our van and run across her lawn in our swimsuits, jumping off the dock into the water. I can still remember the first time I swam across the lake to the area of what is now Sail Lake Professional Center.
She had a metal canoe and a flat-bottomed yellow paddle boat back then in the 1980s. Between that and the camp on the other side of the lake, I have a lot of fond memories with Hammonton Lake as the backdrop. I know I’m not alone.
My great-aunt’s been gone a long time. Her former home is bring torn down, and it’s safe to say no one’s gone for a swim off her property in a long time. Camp Tuscaloosa hasn’t been based at the lake for a long time either. I imagine kids learn to swim in a chlorinated swimming pool now.
The lake can be improved. I believe in the power of Hammontonians who seek experts and unite to work on a cause as a team. We have seen it in the past (and present) with the revitalization of the downtown and the new town hall, which has become a huge part of the resurgence of the downtown area.
I see no reason we can’t apply that same persistent effort to some of the challenges facing Hammonton today: protecting our town’s water supply; fostering economic development; enhancing and maintaining our parks; elevating the local public schools; completing long-overdue street, water and sewer infrastructure projects; preserving Hammonton Lake and creating the best possible quality of life for all citizens of the town.
Admitting problems is always the best starting point toward finding solutions. The Gazette will continue to ask the tough questions and bring up the matters that others, particularly in government, seek to avoid.
The stakes are simply too high to turn our backs or look away.
Anything worth saving is worth our full attention, until the problem is solved. Future generations will thank us for our persistence.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.