Just behind where Little Mill and New roads meet in Gloucester Township, there lies a stretch of open space.
According to Michael Hogan, program director at South Jersey Land and Water Trust, it was a swimming lake In the 1940s and ‘50s. Then it became a gristmill. In the ‘80s, there was a dam field. Now, water flows in a steady stream through the county-owned property that looks far more like a forest than a lake and is home to wildlife and flora. There are deer tracks fresh in the mud, and signs of beavers at work on many of the site’s trees.
Hogan will lead a lake cleanup on Saturday, June 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers should meet and park near the intersection of Little Mill and New roads in Pine Hill. After that, there will be a nature hike also led by Hogan, so people can learn more about the area’s history, wildlife and plants.
Volunteers are advised to wear boots and long pants, as the area can be muddy in different areas and some plants grow higher than the ankles.
The South Jersey Land and Water Trust is actively involved in protecting the environment and regularly organized cleanups before COVID.
“We’ve co-organized huge cleanups like the MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.) cleanup at Cooper River Park,” Hogan recalled. “We’ve done quite a few things with Rutgers- Camden before COVID shut everything down. I think the year before COVID, we had around 26 cleanups and 500 volunteers came up.”
Throughout the year, the trust organizes cleanups, nature walks and workshops in South Jersey where people can get more involved and learn about their environment. Hogan said macroinvertebrate testing was done in Mason’s Run — the stream that runs through the hidden lake area — twice before COVID, and it was found to be one of the cleanest streams in South Jersey.
“Simply put, there’s three kinds [of macroinvertebrates]: pollution intolerant, pollution sensitive and pollution tolerant,” Hogan explained. “So as you find all three, if you just find pollution tolerant bugs, there’s an issue. We found three kinds of … pollution-intolerant caddisflies in this lake, so that’s kind of special.”
The nonprofit trust oversees habitat restoration, stream surveys, rain garden creation, education and advocacy. A conservation organization based in Auburn, the trust merged with the Federation of Gloucester County Watersheds in 2006 to become the organization it is today, although both groups have been around since the early 1990s.
For questions related to the cleanup, contact Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 476-2086.
To learn more, or stay up to date with cleanups, visit https://www.sjlandwater.org/events.