‘Hidden Gem’ Made Popular by TikTok Is Shut to Keep Out-of-Towners Away

0
13

HIGH BRIDGE, N.J. — Lake Solitude it was not.

For years, the 35-acre picturesque lake, waterfall and century-old dam had been an unspoiled treasure for local residents, but through the power of social media, the secret got out.

People began pouring in, bringing portable speakers, children and food, and leaving behind trash. Borough officials installed extra garbage cans and portable toilets, and brought in police officers to direct traffic — many vehicles with New York license plates. On a recent Sunday, some visitors had to be turned away.

Residents had seen enough. They swarmed a virtual town-hall-style meeting this month, demanding that Lake Solitude be shut. Last week, the Borough of High Bridge complied, closing the area to all visitors.

HIGH BRIDGE, N.J. — Lake Solitude it was not.

For years, the 35-acre picturesque lake, waterfall and century-old dam had been an unspoiled treasure for local residents, but through the power of social media, the secret got out.

People began pouring in, bringing portable speakers, children and food, and leaving behind trash. Borough officials installed extra garbage cans and portable toilets, and brought in police officers to direct traffic — many vehicles with New York license plates. On a recent Sunday, some visitors had to be turned away.

Residents had seen enough. They swarmed a virtual town-hall-style meeting this month, demanding that Lake Solitude be shut. Last week, the Borough of High Bridge complied, closing the area to all visitors.

Some of the complaints stemmed from fears that visitors might bring the coronavirus from New York City, about 50 miles east of the borough. But some of them focused bluntly on ethnicity.

Some of the complaints stemmed from fears that visitors might bring the coronavirus from New York City, about 50 miles east of the borough. But some of them focused bluntly on ethnicity.

ImageThe lake and the surrounding area had been something of a local secret, until a TikTok video recently called it a “hidden gem.”
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
ImageThe lake and the surrounding area had been something of a local secret, until a TikTok video recently called it a “hidden gem.”
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
ImageThe lake and the surrounding area had been something of a local secret, until a TikTok video recently called it a “hidden gem.”

High Bridge is nearly 95 percent white, but the lake attracts a much more diverse group.

On the last weekend that Lake Solitude was open, mothers and fathers were paddling with toddlers underneath the waterfall’s spray, grandmothers were basking with their feet in the bucolic river and 20-somethings were taking drone photos with the imposing dam.

“We have droves of out-of-state Spanish people and they leave their crap lying on the ground,” said Lester Tomson, 58, who regularly fished the stream.

Mr. Tomson, a registered Democrat, is one of a number of people who, on social media and in conversation, have suggested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should have been called to the park.

“It’s not a racist thing,” he said in an interview. “It’s a thing where you observe things, and your observations are based in facts and not in racism.”

High Bridge is nearly 95 percent white, but the lake attracts a much more diverse group.

On the last weekend that Lake Solitude was open, mothers and fathers were paddling with toddlers underneath the waterfall’s spray, grandmothers were basking with their feet in the bucolic river and 20-somethings were taking drone photos with the imposing dam.

“We have droves of out-of-state Spanish people and they leave their crap lying on the ground,” said Lester Tomson, 58, who regularly fished the stream.

Mr. Tomson, a registered Democrat, is one of a number of people who, on social media and in conversation, have suggested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should have been called to the park.

“It’s not a racist thing,” he said in an interview. “It’s a thing where you observe things, and your observations are based in facts and not in racism.”

Lake Solitude is one of several normally quiet oases for locals that have been recently overrun by day trippers from New York City — and pools were mostly closed until this month — who are looking for closer places to visit because of the pandemic.

Lake Solitude is one of several normally quiet oases for locals that have been recently overrun by day trippers from New York City — and pools were mostly closed until this month — who are looking for closer places to visit because of the pandemic.

Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

In Woodstock, N.Y., about two hours north of Manhattan, town officials said they had to swimming holes because of the “littering and messes left behind by visitors” that made it difficult to “maintain safety during the pandemic.”

Elsewhere in the Catskills, more than 300 people attended a town-hall-style meeting held outdoors last week to complain about the traffic and trash brought by outsiders at Kaaterskill Falls, especially at its popular swimming holes, Fawns Leap and Dog Hole.

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Greene County, home to Kaaterskill Falls, is over 96 percent white. But Daryl Legg, the town supervisor of Hunter, where the falls are, rejected the idea that race had any part to play in the complaints.

“People come here for the scenery and beauty of the place,” he said, “but leave red Solo cups at the bottom of the swim hole, and people defecate and pee in the woods and it smells like a latrine after Woodstock.”

But the tensions have been especially sharp in New Jersey, where state officials in April gave municipalities broad discretion to close public parks as a way of curbing the coronavirus.

In Woodstock, N.Y., about two hours north of Manhattan, town officials said they had to swimming holes because of the “littering and messes left behind by visitors” that made it difficult to “maintain safety during the pandemic.”

Elsewhere in the Catskills, more than 300 people attended a town-hall-style meeting held outdoors last week to complain about the traffic and trash brought by outsiders at Kaaterskill Falls, especially at its popular swimming holes, Fawns Leap and Dog Hole.

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Greene County, home to Kaaterskill Falls, is over 96 percent white. But Daryl Legg, the town supervisor of Hunter, where the falls are, rejected the idea that race had any part to play in the complaints.

“People come here for the scenery and beauty of the place,” he said, “but leave red Solo cups at the bottom of the swim hole, and people defecate and pee in the woods and it smells like a latrine after Woodstock.”

But the tensions have been especially sharp in New Jersey, where state officials in April gave municipalities broad discretion to close public parks as a way of curbing the coronavirus.

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

Updated 2020-07-30T22:04:02.069Z

In Ocean County, borough officials in Lakehurst cited overcrowding in their decision to to visitors in May, a day after the state had reopened county and state parks. In Long Branch, in Monmouth County, the police temporarily blocked beach access this month after a deluge of beachgoers made social distancing impossible.

In High Bridge, the decision last week to close Lake Solitude was made for health precautions and because the parking lots were at capacity, according to the borough’s mayor, Michele Lee.

But three days earlier, during the virtual meeting, some public comments cited other reasons: One man expressed that he felt unsafe after a male visitor to the lake said, “Hola, señorita,” to his wife.

In Ocean County, borough officials in Lakehurst cited overcrowding in their decision to to visitors in May, a day after the state had reopened county and state parks. In Long Branch, in Monmouth County, the police temporarily blocked beach access this month after a deluge of beachgoers made social distancing impossible.

In High Bridge, the decision last week to close Lake Solitude was made for health precautions and because the parking lots were at capacity, according to the borough’s mayor, Michele Lee.

But three days earlier, during the virtual meeting, some public comments cited other reasons: One man expressed that he felt unsafe after a male visitor to the lake said, “Hola, señorita,” to his wife.

Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

“We are an inclusive community. We are going to be accepting of everybody, regardless of race or faith or who you love,” Mayor Lee, a Democrat, said. “We did what we have to do because it was really becoming a safety concern.”

The mayor said that the crowds grew drastically after a that called the site a “hidden gem” went viral.

Ms. Lee said that the borough’s decision had nothing to do with any overt or subtle xenophobia or racism — like the discussions about the cleanliness of “those people” that could recently be overheard over pints of Keepin’ Local beer on the patio of a local brewery and taproom.

“We are an inclusive community. We are going to be accepting of everybody, regardless of race or faith or who you love,” Mayor Lee, a Democrat, said. “We did what we have to do because it was really becoming a safety concern.”

The mayor said that the crowds grew drastically after a that called the site a “hidden gem” went viral.

Ms. Lee said that the borough’s decision had nothing to do with any overt or subtle xenophobia or racism — like the discussions about the cleanliness of “those people” that could recently be overheard over pints of Keepin’ Local beer on the patio of a local brewery and taproom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 27, 2020

  • Should I refinance my mortgage?

    • because mortgage rates have Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
  • What is school going to look like in September?

    • It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of , and to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that , citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. , including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
  • Is the coronavirus airborne?

    • The coronavirus , infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who .
  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

    • Common symptoms Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
  • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

    • So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,”

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 27, 2020

  • Should I refinance my mortgage?

    • because mortgage rates have Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
  • What is school going to look like in September?

    • It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of , and to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that , citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. , including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
  • Is the coronavirus airborne?

    • The coronavirus , infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who .
  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

    • Common symptoms Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
  • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

    • So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,”

“I find those kinds of comments more disgusting than any of the garbage I saw left behind at the lake,” Mayor Lee said.

At Lake Solitude the day before it was shut, the ground was pristine, and few people enjoying the park felt there was a problem.

“People are just looking for an excuse not to have colored people around, to get us out of their town,” said Alej Rodriguez, 26, a truck driver who drove in from Upper Manhattan with his family, to visit the lake and the sights on the rolling grounds, like the remains of the Union Iron Works forge, which smelted cannonballs for the Revolutionary War.

“You’ve always got a target on your back as a colored person,” he said. “You’ve always got to watch your back, even at a beautiful lake where we come to have fun.”

Not far from Mr. Rodriguez, a man, who identified himself as a High Bridge resident but would give only his first name, Mike, was taking photos of people swimming with a long range lens.

“I’m documenting the problem,” said the man, who was white, explaining he was angry that the bathers were not wearing masks as they swam, and worried that the people playing in the water were contaminating it.

“I find those kinds of comments more disgusting than any of the garbage I saw left behind at the lake,” Mayor Lee said.

At Lake Solitude the day before it was shut, the ground was pristine, and few people enjoying the park felt there was a problem.

“People are just looking for an excuse not to have colored people around, to get us out of their town,” said Alej Rodriguez, 26, a truck driver who drove in from Upper Manhattan with his family, to visit the lake and the sights on the rolling grounds, like the remains of the Union Iron Works forge, which smelted cannonballs for the Revolutionary War.

“You’ve always got a target on your back as a colored person,” he said. “You’ve always got to watch your back, even at a beautiful lake where we come to have fun.”

Not far from Mr. Rodriguez, a man, who identified himself as a High Bridge resident but would give only his first name, Mike, was taking photos of people swimming with a long range lens.

“I’m documenting the problem,” said the man, who was white, explaining he was angry that the bathers were not wearing masks as they swam, and worried that the people playing in the water were contaminating it.

Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Image

Edward Bielcik, 74, had heard talk of the overcrowding and wanted to see for himself, he said. He was one of several residents strolling the park with cameras to document the claims. “They said the Latin Kings tagged the area,” Mr. Bielcik said.

For several weeks, Mayor Lee, a financial adviser who does not take a salary for her borough position, had pushed to keep the park open, under her belief the newcomers could help make High Bridge a tourist destination. “If we get this right, it’s a great situation for the town,” she said.

Plans are underway to figure out how to reopen and accommodate any crowds, the mayor said, but there is no timeline yet to do so.

Some of the borough’s residents say they can’t help but feel that uglier impulses are behind the desire to close the lake.

At Scout’s Coffee Bar & Mercantile on Main Street, the owner’s eyes filled with tears when she recounted the words used about the visitors that she had overheard at her barista’s counter. Just a month before, a Black Lives Matter rally had taken place down the street.

“We just went through all the protests, and we are all learning about how we can be better allies to people of color, and this is our opportunity. It’s disheartening,” said the owner, Nicole Poko, 38, who is white. “It just feels like there is a lot of work to be done.”

Edward Bielcik, 74, had heard talk of the overcrowding and wanted to see for himself, he said. He was one of several residents strolling the park with cameras to document the claims. “They said the Latin Kings tagged the area,” Mr. Bielcik said.

For several weeks, Mayor Lee, a financial adviser who does not take a salary for her borough position, had pushed to keep the park open, under her belief the newcomers could help make High Bridge a tourist destination. “If we get this right, it’s a great situation for the town,” she said.

Plans are underway to figure out how to reopen and accommodate any crowds, the mayor said, but there is no timeline yet to do so.

Some of the borough’s residents say they can’t help but feel that uglier impulses are behind the desire to close the lake.

At Scout’s Coffee Bar & Mercantile on Main Street, the owner’s eyes filled with tears when she recounted the words used about the visitors that she had overheard at her barista’s counter. Just a month before, a Black Lives Matter rally had taken place down the street.

“We just went through all the protests, and we are all learning about how we can be better allies to people of color, and this is our opportunity. It’s disheartening,” said the owner, Nicole Poko, 38, who is white. “It just feels like there is a lot of work to be done.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here