It was a long time coming, but residents and visitors have been able to enjoy a variety of activities at Gloucester’s largest park, Beaverdam, for 20 years.
The park is celebrating its 20th anniversary, with gradual steps taken over time to make the park what it is today. The park opened to visitors in the summer of 1990, holding its official grand opening in March of 1991.
Beaverdam Park surrounds a 635-acre reservoir that was constructed to provide drinking water for residents and businesses of Gloucester County.
Carol Steele, Gloucester’s director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, recalled some of the controversy surrounding the park in the late 1980s. "It was difficult for some of the land owners to give up their land," Steele said.
A lawsuit was initiated, but in the end, the county’s need for a public water source eventually prevailed, Steele said.
"It definitely affected people’s land that had been held in their families for many years, and future plans they may have had for that land," Steele said. "Because it was to meet a public need, the matter was settled and everyone was paid fair market value for their land."
Steele said there was also apprehension among a group of residents that didn’t believe the reservoir would fill up. "There was a lack of faith there," Steele said. "But it did better than expected."
Over time, many residents began to accept and enjoy the idea of the project. "Having a place where the public could come and enjoy helped soften people’s acceptance," Steele said, noting that the park has enjoyed many accolades from the public during its years of service.
Beaverdam’s manager Blair Evans said when the park opened, all that was on site was the lake and limited trails. Since then, miles of trails have been added along with recreational facilities, a ranger’s station and the popular Whitcomb Lodge, which is booked nearly every day for various public and private events.