By Victoria Ahlers
Reading “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns” in A Citizens Guide to Grassroots Campaigns sparked an interest to research topics of this nature in regards to my home town of Freehold, NJ. I could not find any information about groups such as the one that was started to save the Great Swamp, but I did find interesting information about a lake that is located just a mile from my house.
Lake Topanemus is a Freehold landmark. If you are from the town, chances are you have been to the park it is located at. Whether it be for Old Freehold Day, to fish, to run, or to just enjoy a nice summer day, the park is a local hot spot for warm weather outdoor activities. Located in the center of the park is the lake. The lake isn’t as big as some of the lakes found in northern New Jersey; however it’s still large enough for paddle and row boats. There is a small neighborhood located on the lake as well. The lake has been a local landmark for decades, and back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was a popular place for children to go swimming. However, the lake is now contaminated and deemed unsafe for swimming because of the development around the lake, and garbage dumping in the lake.
While reading “Saving a Swamp” I wondered whether my town had a group of activists similar to the ones that campaigned to save the swamps in their towns, would the lake still be safe to swim in today. I’m not sure if there was a group formed and they just weren’t successful, or if no one even knew that the lake was becoming progressively more and more contaminated with each passing year. I do know, however, that there have been a few things done to try and clean up the lake. For instance, Freehold High School, which is located just down the street from the lake, had a number of biology classes test the PH in water samples from the lake, examine what types of echo-systems developed in and around the lake post-contamination, and also have done a little bit of garbage clean-up along the banks of the lake.
I feel as though it is very possible for these measures to take on a larger scale and really promote the clean-up of the lake. Unfortunately most people in the town are unaware of its contamination, or it doesn’t bother them. Although the lake wasn’t completely destroyed by the building of the surrounding developments, and the increasingly growing amount of litter along its banks and in its water, surely it is not used as much as it once was, and it is losing its value as a landmark of the town. Younger generations are not fully appreciating the potential beauty the lake and the park have. “Saving a Swamp and Other Landmark Campaigns” really opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t really need to have unattainable goals and resources to campaign for the landmark lake in my town, considering how Helen Fenske did much of the work for the Great Swamp Campaign from her own kitchen.