State DEP: Dam Safety Is Reason for Clear Cut of Harrisville Roadside Park

Jun 28, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Dam Safety Division clear cut a popular shady park at Harrisville Lake, Burlington County.

Travelers on their way to Chatsworth through the picturesque Pinelands are stunned to see Harrisville Lake’s roadside park now barren of trees. The two spillways were framed by soft pines, blueberry and pepperbush shrubs and the park was a perfect place to pull over, sit in the shade and fish or just contemplate the beautiful lake. Now there is a dirt parking lot frequented by canoe liveries picking up fares that have come down a stream from Oswego Lake.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Parks and Recreation Department did warn that the area would be closed in May for tree removal, but nothing else was said to the public about the clear-cutting of the tract.

Trees growing on the Oswego Lake dam and Lake Absegami dam were also removed.

“The State Park Service has been working with Dam Safety to ensure the integrity of the earthen dams through the removal of trees in a numbers of parks and forests,” explained DEP spokesman Larry Hajna. “It’s part of a comprehensive effort to comply with regulations and ensure the safety of these structures.

“Roots from trees grow and spread, eventually destabilizing the embankments. They can eventually crumble and give way, and it would happen at the absolutely worst time, when the impounded lake is filling up because of heavy rain.

“It’s not that we want to cut down trees, however public safety has to take precedence. If a tree was sick and about to fall on your house, you’d have it taken down. You wouldn’t like that you had to do this, but you’d want to protect yourself, your family and your house.

“When water is rushing over the embankment, a situation known as overtopping, soil washes away and trees become unstable. When they fall over, they take big chunks of dirt with them, which can lead to a domino effect of trees toppling, until the entire embankment gives way,” he added.

Hajna also said he would look into whether there are any plans to make the roadside more attractive now that the trees and shrubs are gone.  —P.J.

 

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