by Phil Stilton,
Toms River Magazine
MANCHESTER-Growing up in Ocean County, we fondly called the abandoned ASARCO mineral mining operation, the Sarco Pit. It was where we hung out on weekends to have fun. It was never legal, nor was it ever safe. The crystal blue and clear spring fed lake was too much of a lure on us to stay away. We’d ride just about anything through the woods and then cool off along the sandy beaches of the pit. It was like our own private Caribbean Beach, right here in Ocean County.
We were kids. We were dumb.
In years passed, Manchester started cracking down on the trespassing at the site. Things got very serious this year when a 17 year old girl drowned in the lake this past July.
That tragedy led to Manchester Mayor Kenneth Palmer to get tougher on would-be trespassers.
“In an effort to prevent future tragedies, the Township will be implementing the following strategy, our police department will step up random patrols. We will reexamine our township ordinances to enhance trespass violations with fines up to $1,000; and we will implement a strict ‘no warning’ enforcement policy,” Palmer said. “Our goal is to keep people out of the Heritage Minerals Tract for their own safety.”
In the first week of the new enforcement, multiple trespass citations were issued.
The site consists of 7,000 acres that fronts on Route 70 between Lakehurst and Whiting.
The land was mined so deeply that the bodies of water often referred to as ‘lakes’ are actually groundwater aquifers.
After a few steps in the soft, unstable sand, the “shelf” drops off to 60 feet deep or more.
The mineral water is cold and clear because it is not fed by any stream, but instead by an underground water source.
“The banks are unpredictable and dangerously unstable. In years past, it was a common occurrence for vehicles to get ‘stuck’ in the soft sand on the site,” Palmer added. “There have been serious ATV accidents, drownings, and sunken vehicles pulled from the site. Coupled with those conditions, there is also a 45 acre site containing lowlevel radioactive tailings left from the original mining operations in the 1970s.”
Palmer noted that Hovsons is in the process of bringing in heavy equipment to conduct clean-up operations on that 45-acre site. It is not a place for youngsters or adults to trespass. It can be dangerous.
“Please spread the word: Trespassers will be fined to the full extent allowed by law,” he said.