CRANFORD — Around 3:30 a.m. every morning, two huge water pumps are turned on at Nomahegan Lake.
In three hours, the pumps will drain the northern half of the lake so that work crews can start their day, bringing in the heavy equipment needed to remove what they jokingly refer to as “the soup,” the watery mix of organic sediment that has built up over the years on the lake bottom.
When they are done with the northern half of the lake in another week or so, work crews will shift to the southern end, hoping to have that cleared by the end of April. In May, there will be new plantings and shoreline restoration work.
Last fall, the Union County Board of Freeholders approved a $1,495,358 contract to Let It Grow Inc. of River Edge, for the project in Nomahegan, one of the most popular parks in the Union County Park System.
The restoration of the 7.5-acre lake follows the rehabilitation of Upper Echo Lake in Echo Lake Park and is part of a four-lake restoration plan that includes Rahway River Park in Rahway, Briant Park in Summit and Meisel Avenue Park in Springfield, according to County officials.
“These man-made lakes are among the most attractive and popular features in our parks, and as with any built environment they need periodic restoration to ensure a long and healthy lifespan,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “Our goal is to preserve them for the enjoyment of Union County residents for many years to come.”
Extensive plantings planned for along the Nomahegan Lake shoreline are designed to reduce silt infiltration into the lake and to make it more difficult for Canada Geese to have easy access to the water, which then discourages flocks from remaining in the park.
Two new aerators will be installed in the lake, along with several areas lined with glaciated boulders to enable access to the water for fishing.
When the lake was drained in mid-March, the resident fish were collected and relocated to Echo Lake Park. And it was quite a catch, with more than 85 largemouth bass, 1,300 sunfish, 320 crappies, and a number of other species all safely transported to their new home.
Several invasive species, including carp, were found. However, state environmental regulations prohibit those fish from being relocated.
In addition to the lake restoration and new paths, new drainage piping will be installed in the baseball field area to the east of the lake. Nearly 1,700 feet of perforated pipe will help drain the field area more quickly after rainstorms.
In addition, the sections of field affected by the project are expected to be reseeded by mid-April and should be playable by mid-May, according to the contractors,
Nomahegan Park was part of the original park system designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm. An estimated 46,400 cubic yards of soil was excavated in 1930 to create the lake, which holds an estimated 9.8 million gallons of water. The lake is fed by a tributary of the Rahway River.
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