Holiday Lake Reopens Doors But Not To Alcoholic Beverages

Posted: July 10, 1988

Some of the patrons entering Holiday Lake on July 2 were a little surprised when their cars were searched at the main gate.

Before they could enter the Delanco lake for its official 1988 opening, patrons had to pass security guards who checked their coolers for alcoholic beverages, which are banned at Holiday Lake for the first time since it opened in the 1950s.

Trinity Resources Inc., the lake's new owner, decided to make the change. The Willingboro religious group and its president, the Rev. Abraham Fenton, want to get rid of the drinking and loud music that have characterized the park in recent years.

"People are used to bringing alcoholic beverages, but that has a tendency to cause problems," said Basil Osbourne, a front-gate employee. "You can't have that if you want to create a family setting."

Trinity spent $1.2 million to purchase the 52.4-acre site in November and has worked on cleaning up the lake and the grounds, which had fallen into disrepair.

The water in the manmade lake was changed and the entire park was cleaned for opening day, though not all the facilities were ready to open, Osbourne said. The snack bar and miniature golf areas were closed, though the management will try to open them before the summer's end, he said.

The lake, located just off of Route 130, will be open every day until Labor Day, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Osbourne said. Daily admission is $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2.

"We're trying to make the existing facilities wholesome and clean for a family atmosphere," said Charles Thomas, a security worker.

Osbourne said that Mr. Fenton would like to build facilities on the site for his ministry, the Trinity Fellowship Church of South Jersey, an affiliate of the church associated with Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Fenton currently holds services at the John F. Kennedy High School in Willingboro, where his church rents auditorium space.

Osbourne said he expected 600 visitors for opening day, the same number of people who turned out the previous weekend for a pre-opening trial run.

The lake, with a capacity of more than 5,000 , looked empty, however. Sunbathers and swimmers were scattered around the seven-acre lake during the warm, partly-cloudy afternoon.

Some of the park's visitors reacted negatively Saturday to the new alcohol restriction.

"It costs too much, and you can't even drink," said Sicily Williams, who came for a pre-Fourth-of-July picnic with four carloads of relatives. "The only reason we didn't turn around when we got here is because we're from Philly."

Williams's family came to the lake four times last year, but she said they weren't coming back again.

"We'll go to Fairmount Park next time," she said. "You can drink, and it doesn't cost anything."

Lisa Eckel of Pennsauken, 23, Janice West of Willingboro, 17, and two friends planned to come to the lake, but when security guards found a few beers hidden in their coolers, their friends went home instead.

Eckel said she would still come to the lake for swimming and sunbathing, but the alcohol restriction would keep away her friends and others like them.

Holiday Lake regular Dawn Smithwick, 45, of Palmyra, said that "a lot of people don't know it's open yet," when she saw that the turnout was down from recent years.

She also said that the new alcohol rule wouldn't affect her at all.

"It's the only place around that I can go swimming at," she said. "I was disappointed when it didn't open for Memorial Day."

Others, like Mike Colwitz, 39, of Palmyra, were pleased with the small turnout.

"I might come back tomorrow," said Colwitz, who came to the park with his daughter. "I'd rather go down the shore, but this is closer and much less crowded."

The guards confiscated two beers from Colwitz, but he said that wouldn't stop him from returning.

"I wasn't going to do much on two beers anyway," he said.

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