CCC Contributions to Belleplain State Forest
Three Unknown Companies, New Jersey
The Following is excerpted from the online New Jersey Pinelands Commission Recreation Guide.
Belleplain State Forest, in the Outer Coastal Plain region of southern New Jersey in Cape May and Cumberland Counties, consists of over 13,000 acres of primarily forested land. The forest offers a dynamic matrix of lowland hardwood swamps, former agricultural areas in various stages of succession, stands of Atlantic white cedar and plantations of Norway spruce, Eastern white pine and Virginia pine, and marshes.
Belleplain was established in 1928 by the state for public recreation, timber production, wildlife management, and water conservation. Beginning in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) transformed the Meisle family's cranberry bog into a 26.2 acre reservoir that was first named Meisle Lake and later renamed Lake Nummy (in honor of the last Lenape Sachem, or Chief, to live in the county). Three separate CCC camps operated on the property and the men who served constructed the forest's nature center (formerly the main office) and the maintenance buildings, and created much of the present day road system, bridges, and dams. The Corps also improved vast tracts of fields and forest through release-thinnings, hand plantings, and other silvicultural techniques.
The forest is accessible by many motorized routes, multi-use trails, and the abandoned railroad bed of the former "Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line" which bisects the forest in an east-west orientation. This state forest offers two connecting self-guided nature trails around Lake Nummy - a 6.5 mile East Creek trail which links two recreation areas, and approximately 10 miles of additional marked paths. A designated bathing area at Lake Nummy is open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day; a small boat dock is situated on the southern shore of Lake Nummy and a boat ramp is on the western shore of East Creek Pond. Other amenities include picnic tables and barbeque grills; a 10 station fitness course; a wildlife observation platform; a staffed nature center (seasonal operation); a boat rental and food/novelty concession at Lake Nummy during the summer months; and a trailer dumping station for campers.
A free booklet describing the nature trail may be obtained at the forest office. While hiking, the careful observer can discover many of the trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and animals that are native to the Pinelands. The forest's reputation as a "mecca" for birders and dragonfly/butterfly enthusiasts is growing and several workshops and seminars are annually conducted onsite by staff of the Cape May Bird Observatory.
One hundred eighty-eight family campsites, two group camping areas, and fourteen enclosed lean-tos are located around Lake Nummy. A group cabin called "The Lodge" was recently constructed on the eastern shoreline of East Creek Pond. Flush toilets, hot showers, and laundry equipment are maintained in each camping area.
Belleplain State Forest is signed along major highways within a five mile radius of the forest office. It is 15 miles southeast of Millville via Routes 47/55 and 550; 10 miles west of the Garden State Parkway southbound at Exit 17 via Routes 9 and 550; 14 miles northwest of Parkway Exit 13 northbound via Routes 9 and 550; and 7 miles southwest of Tuckahoe via Routes 50, 49, and 557 to 550.
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