Hammonton Lake Park revitalization needed
In the coming months, according to public statements by Councilman Stephen Furgione, the town plans to reinvest and revitalize Hammonton Lake Park through a variety of improvement projects, including new signage, renovations and other efforts.
This news is welcome, and we look forward to covering the plans and the implementation of those plans at the lake park. Because the park is historic, the two local revitalization projects that are the most similar are 1.) the downtown revitalization of the last 25 years; and 2.) the recent revitalization of the St. Joseph Academy (formerly St. Joseph High School) at Central Avenue and Vine Street.
The town would be well-served if it examined these two reclamation projects and spoke with the people involved with them. It would save time and money to talk to people who have successfully rehabbed public areas.
A quick look at the downtown area shows the signage is uniform, including the directional signs and banners. While the signs on the buildings vary from business to business, they all meet a certain standard. Sidewalks, curbing, streets, street lighting, trash and recycling cans, bike racks and other public improvements all work in harmony with each other and the overall setting.
The result is the creation of a place where people want to walk around, sit and eat and be with each other. Anyone who has been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland knows the first “land” you enter is “Main Street U.S.A.”: a romanticized version of a downtown in the 1900s. In Hammonton, the reality beats the fantasy—but it is true those same design elements Disney used are present in our historic downtown.
St. Joseph Academy is a recent revitalization success story that occurred within the downtown. Again, the banners that surround the entire school property, the matching red signage and the distinctive sign in the brick arch on Central Avenue (which donors say will be replaced with a more substantial sandblasted sign that has the same look) all show the “pride of place” of the school campus.
Recent major improvements include the reroofing of the 1905 “red building” and the resurfacing and restriping of the entire parking area. As a result, the school is drawing students. It is also a jewel in the “town common” which includes town hall, the Dr. Chiofalo Fountain, the United States Post Office, the Hammonton Baptist Church, Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, Key Club Park, a commercial building and in the coming weeks, the centerpiece of it all will be returned: the completely renovated 1929 Seth Thomas Hammonton Town Clock.
St. Joseph Academy’s renovations both complement the “town common” and reflect it.
When considering improvements to Hammonton Lake Park, the town should follow the efforts of the people who revitalized downtown Hammonton and St. Joseph Academy, and the successful results of their efforts.
Careful consideration should be taken to integrate color and design for the signage into a park that takes most of its architectural cues from the arts and crafts era of the 1900s to the 1920s on the lake side of the park and the postwar 1940s on the side of the park that includes the baseball fields. Again, we would suggest the town officials look at successful projects that considered the history of the park like the 2009 construction of the Hammonton Canoe Club building and the Hammonton Kiwanis Club’s renovations to the bandstand and pavilion at the lake park in recent years.
Ideally, it would be inclusive to see the town, the Hammonton Little League, the Hammonton Hawks and local civic clubs come together to renovate and paint every structure that needs it at the lake park.
As part of its overall revitalization plan for the park, the town could also make sure all the signage, the public sidewalks, roadways and the dirt track are in the best possible condition. The town could also include public artworks in the park.
It should all be done in an organized way, one that respects the history of the place while being inviting to the current generation of people who are using it. That method has proven successful for the downtown and St. Joseph Academy, and it should prove successful for Hammonton Lake Park as well.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.