WARETOWN, NJ – Passersby may have wondered about the blue tarp covering the sign outside what was historically known as the Waretown Lake & Recreation Area. Ocean Township officials unveiled the sign this Saturday in a dedication ceremony. The Wells Mills landmark now bears the name of Corliss Park Lake and Recreation Area.
Officials renamed the park in honor and remembrance of the Corliss family and their contributions to the community. According to Adele Shaw, President of the Waretown Historical Society, records in 1872 show Seth, John, and Joseph Corliss all lived near each other in Millville, today's Brookville, not far from the schoolhouse.
Members of the Corliss family purchased a cranberry bog on Waretown Creek, located in the woods behind the Waretown Shop Rite and Route 532. Ultimately, Arthur and Ruth Corliss made a generous gift intended to give the youth of the town a place to come to for their enjoyment. They donated the lake and the land that now bears the family name.
Saturday’s ceremonial service began with a presentation of colors offered by the Barnegat American Legion Post 232 Color Guard. Paul DeNoia sang the National Anthem after the flag salute.
All three members of the Township Committee participated in the dedication, with Deputy Mayor Lydia Dodd delivering the welcoming remarks.
“Great great grandson, Bobby Corliss spoke on behalf of the family,” shared Diane Ambrosio, Business Administrator/Municipal Clerk. “His remarks were quite moving.”
Bobby said when he spoke with his father about addressing the group, his dad said, "“If the trees around the lake could talk, boy, they would tell stories.”
According to Bobby, in addition to the countless stories, there were plenty of memories. "Memories of laughter between friends swimming in the lake, of smiles on faces of young boys catching their first fish, their fathers looking on in proud admiration.." he said. " Of walking around the dirt road behind the lake on a cool summer night with lightning bugs lighting up the woods, sending messages of calmness and serenity in some ancient type of Morse code, of teenagers sharing their first kiss, with sweaty palms and hearts pounding."
While acknowledging that Waretown has changed as each generation goes to the next, Bobby said they all created memories.
"I hope that the Corliss Park Lake and Recreation Area continues to create new memories and stories for a new generation of people, leaving just as lasting a mark on them as it has on my family," Bobby shared.
The Waretown Historical Society recently published an excerpt from the Ocean Township Centennial Book, 1876-1976. Ruth Corliss herself wrote about her family’s move from Brookville to Waretown in 1884. Ocean Township consists of Brookville and Waretown.
The book entry offers picturesque tale into the Corliss family’s involvement in the cranberry industry. One can literally go back in time to understand the growth, harvesting, and sales process. Cranberries from Waretown once made it to the holiday tables of families out west.
The park’s name change is not the only honor to the Corliss family. There is also a Corliss Street in Waretown.
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