I’m a hiker. Being able to walk to a place of scenic natural beauty is important to me. Living in Collingswood, where rows of houses and stores line every street, may seem to be at odds with my desire for scenic natural beauty. We live in a congested area!
One day, as the clouds of an ominous storm overtook the wide open space of the Wegman’s parking lot, it struck me just how congested our neighborhood is. It is not possible to watch an approaching storm or see much distance at all—there are other houses, buildings, and tall trees obstructing the view.
Sometimes I need to get away from the congestion, but I don’t want to get in my car and drive anywhere. So I regularly seek scenic natural beauty in local parks, where I fulfill my cravings for wide open space and wildlife, as well as enjoy being near a sizeable body of water.
A mile’s walk to my north brings me to Newton Lake Park, a large Camden County Park bordered by Collingswood, Oaklyn and Haddon Township. At its best, Newton Lake is lovely park to walk in, with plenty of spots where I feel refreshed by scenic natural beauty. I know the lake has been dredged at points in the past, and its current form is not entirely natural, but it’s satisfying enough for me.
Here, I regularly see birds of prey. I’ve seen a hawk perched on low-lying brush clutching a fresh kill. I enjoy the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks and the snowy egrets with their long legs.
I like the little turns and coves on the quieter Oaklyn side of the lake. I enjoy the little amble through the woods near Cuthbert Blvd. I even enjoy the big, ugly fish that surface from the bottom of the lake every now and then, like the carp.
Unfortunately, in recent months, my favorite local place of scenic natural beauty looks like crap. Last month, Newton Lake was choked with a pervasive blanket of algae so thick that trash was sitting on it.
That’s right—if you threw your broken umbrella on Newton Lake, it would rest atop the algae as if the lake was covered in a sheet of ice. Trash dotted the green lake with little clear water visible. Even with the dropping temperatures, there is still a good deal of algae in the lake. It is a total mess.
This got me thinking about how a lake ringed with continuous development (including suspiciously green suburban lawns) can be brought back to health. I’m sure the imbalance in the lake can at least partially be attributed to contaminants from run-off. A few water stewardship tips come to mind.
Avoiding chemical fertilizers and herbicides for routine lawn care is important, as they can wash off into the local lake or stream. So is avoiding washing cars at home where storm drains may lead to the local lake or stream. I know excessive amounts of feces from pets or other animals—ahem, geese—can be problematic.
Reducing sources of run-off helps too. Rain gardens or other low-lying areas that help collect run-off help disperse pollutants. I’ve seen a few rain garden projects recently, like the ones at Zane Elementary School and Saddlers Woods. These projects certainly help. I also think the excessive heat and dry conditions this summer caused the water to stagnate, which certainly challenges the health of a lake.
I think Camden County has a plan for the abysmal state of Newton Lake. I know they have recently been at work around the lake. I’ve seen weed trees and shrubs marked and removed. I also noticed some kind of project involving storm drains on the Haddon Township side of the lake. I’ve heard about an aeration plan for the lake.
However, when I’ve tried finding information on the Camden County website, all I’ve found is information on the Newton Lake Watershed Clean Up and an invitation to bidders interested in working on Newton Lake Park improvements. I have tried emailing and calling the Camden County Environmental Commission to no avail to get more information on the plans for Newton Lake. What's next?
Has anyone heard anything about what the county has planned for Newton Lake? Will it be a positive change for our local place of scenic natural beauty?