Breathing Life Back into Union County’s Four Lakes

By Elizabeth Bell
Nomahegan Lake after restoration

Nomahegan Lake after restoration

Built during the Great Depression, Nomahegan Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm. As the sons of renowned landscape architect and Central Park designer, Fredrick Law Olmsted, the brothers designed the park with the beautiful, 7.5-acre Nomahegan Lake as the centerpiece. The Brothers previously designed three other Union County parks in a similar fashion, placing bodies of water as the focal point. But over time, the lakes fell into disrepair, eroding stabilization and accumulating a “soup” of silt and organic growth that harmed the ecology and hampered the once scenic vistas.

Maser Consulting was contracted by Union County to evaluate, scope, design and obtain permits for the four neglected lakes and ponds within the County’s park system: Nomahegan Lake, Rahway River Lake and Lagoon, Briant Pond and Meisel Pond. Utilizing funding from Green Acres, County Open Space and coordination of efforts with the local Briant Park Olmstead Conservancy, the overall cost of the project is estimated at $16 million to restore the lakes to their previous glory and ensure a sustainable design. Maser Consulting assembled a team to provide land survey, landscape architecture, construction administration, stormwater management, and hydrogeological and ecological services in order to breathe life back into these forgotten lakes.

Each of the four lakes required a unique set of restorative enhancements to improve the overall health, beginning with feasibility studies, land and bathymetric surveys, and wetlands delineation. The team applied various approaches specific to each of the lakes, including sediment dredging, hydro-raking of vegetative growth, outflow repairs, circulation improvements, bank stabilization, aerators installation, and goose protection.

Nomahegan Lake during restoration

Nomahegan Lake during restoration

Measures were taken during this restoration to coordinate the outcome with the County and the local Briant Olmstead Conservancy Group to restore each of the lakes and surrounding areas in accordance with the original Olmstead design. Our team worked closely with the NJDEP, focusing on the restoration of the natural lake bottom and establishment of long-term bank stabilization measures, while minimizing costs and permitting requirements.

Completed in the fall of 2013, the newly restored Nomahegan Lake, the first of the four lakes to be rehabilitated, has surpassed its predecessor in both beauty and usability as it now provides a scenic and relaxing spot for sunbathers and picnic-goers.

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