Dave Federici of Hammonton and his daughter, Dara, 10, work the beach at the lake. Saturday March 10 2012 Annual volunteer clean-up at Hammonton Lake. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

HAMMONTON — The haul from this year’s Hammonton Lake cleanup was less substantial than when it began, but organizer Bob Reitmeyer said that, of course, is the point.

“The first year there was huge stuff we pulled out that had been there 10, 15, 20 years,” he said. “It’s a good thing that we’re finding less.”

Saturday’s fourth annual cleanup of the lake park brought together about 150 volunteers who still found enough bottles, cans, plastic bags and cigarette butts to fill a few dozen trash bags, said Reitmeyer, chair of the town’s Environmental Commission and vice chair of the Hammonton Lake Water Quality Committee.

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The event was co-sponsored by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, which provided the trash bags as well as mechanical grabbers. ShopRite supplied donuts for breakfast, while coffee and hot chocolate were served at the lakeside senior center, the Canoe Club.

The town has invested significantly in the park at the lake in recent years, providing more paved parking and a boat launch, as well as the Canoe Club building.

Reducing the amount of pollutants that flow into the lake as stormwater runoff has also been an ongoing project of the town for decades. High levels of fecal coliform have kept the water closed to swimmers off and on since at least the early ’90s.

Lately, officials said they haven’t found as much interest in swimming at the lake, saying that personal pools have supplanted public lakes as the preferred method for most people to cool off during the summer months.

That, and the expense of hiring lifeguards to monitor the beach, has kept opening the lake from being a top priority for the government.

Councilman Mike Torrissi, who is liaison to the water quality committee, said there is no plan to open the lake for swimmers this summer, principally because of the costs to hire lifeguards and perform daily coliform tests.

But he said the cleanup, in which he took part Saturday, is important to keep the park attractive, and that's evidently important to townspeople as they find more volunteers each year.

“It just gets bigger and bigger,” he said.

Interest in the park is growing, too, and crowds were out enjoying the newly cleaned area on the sunny Sunday afternoon.

“There were a couple hundred people there,” Reitmeyer said after returning home from the park Sunday with his family. “The more you do to it, the more people will come and use it.”

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