Home News Transcript News Transcript Opinion Lake Topanemus is worthy of attention

Lake Topanemus is worthy of attention

The young bombardier from New Jersey learned focus as his aircraft caught enemy flak fire over Germany. The cramped cockpit, burning and smoke filled, taught him teamwork and to remain calm under fire.

Rocked during multiple bomb runs during World War II, his skill to persist and stay mission-focused shaped his future tenacity. Concentration and unflappable character were both learned and a natural divine gift in time.

The bomb runs later proved invaluable during his multiple conflict years during New Jersey partisan sorties.

After the war, the young lieutenant attended Princeton and his tenacity and brains
carried him through Harvard Law. The young lawyer later became a prosecutor, and later a
judge.

Then by a combination of north Jersey rough and tumble politics and good fortune,
Brendan Byrne became the 47th Governor of New Jersey.

Byrne later read a 1960s environmental advocacy book, “The Pine Barrens” by John McPhee. The book outlined the real probability of the New Jersey Pinelands falling extinct to the greed of New Jersey sprawl and overdevelopment.

McPhee’s call for action inspired the former lieutenant and transformed his political life. The former lieutenant decided to enlist again and took up the challenge to save the New Jersey Pinelands. As Governor, this was a daring mission and political madness.

During this new war, Brendan Byrne claimed his popularity fell to 9%. He later laughed
that at this point in time he could not have won a position as dog catcher.

The combat to save the Pinelands was a twisted web of insurmountable flak and opposition. Hostility from political enemies, newspapers, multiple jurisdictions and private industry proved virtually impossible.

The Governor remained focused, on course. His vision and leadership proved to be one of the greatest environmental accomplishments in U.S. history. Today, Byrne is memorialized across party lines as one of New Jersey’s greatest governors of all time.

Before his death, looking back, despite his long list of life’s accomplishments, Gov.
Bryne stated that he wanted to be known for one thing: “the man who saved the Pinelands.”

When asked during an interview why he even tackled the Pinelands, the Governor took a long breath, shrugged his shoulders and smiled. He said, “it was the right thing to do.”

The interviewer was speechless, the mutual silent pause was an overwhelming epiphany into Byrne’s entire life; he was driven by benevolence.

In Freehold, we have a multi-jurisdictional parkland surrounding an historic pond, Lake Topanemus. The pond’s challenges pale compared to Lt. Byrne’s bomb sorties catching flak.

I see wisdom in Byrne’s Pinelands vision and tenacity. Saving the pond and refining the park is, as Byrne said, simply the right thing to do.

Joseph J. Ferdinando
Freehold Township

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