Press Releases

Echo Lake's New Waterwheel A Gift from Levinson Memorial Fund

Mountainside resident Barbara Levinson takes a moment to enjoy the view from the refurbished gazebo at Union County's Echo Lake Park, which straddles the Mountainside-Westfield border. A new waterwheel, along with the refurbishing of the gazebo, was made possible through a donation by Levinson in memory of her son, Kipp, and her late husband, Dr. Joel Levinson.
The new waterwheel at Union County's Echo Lake Park is slowly maneuvered into position so that it will line up with the sluiceway next to the park gazebo before being lowered into place. The new waterwheel, along with the refurbishing of the gazebo, was made possible through a donation by Mountainside resident Barbara Levinson.  The project is in memory of her son, Kipp, and her late husband, Dr. Joel Levinson.

A long winter’s walk in the falling snow. A chance encounter with an old groundskeeper soon to retire.

From that walk, and that unexpected conversation, came an epiphany.  From those two seemingly unrelated moments, Barbara Levinson realized what she wanted to do to forever memorialize her son and husband.

In Union County's Echo Lake Park, not far from her Mountainside home, she would use the money donated in their memories to refurbish the park's lakeside gazebo and water wheel, which stopped turning decades ago.

Sign Up for E-News

The Olmsted-designed park, which straddles the Westfield-Mountainside border, was the scene of many fond family memories for the Levinsons. She and her husband, Joel, would take their son, Kipp, row boating on the lake when he was young. It was also the lake where he learned to fish.

As a teenager, Kipp ran cross-country for Jonathan Dayton High School. He and his teammates would run through Echo Lake as part of their workout.  He was not only captain of the cross-country team, but the tennis team, along with serving as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. In 1985, Kipp was voted Mr. Regional, a title awarded the senior who contributed the most to the school.

Kipp planned on attending Duke University when his life was cut short. He died in a single car accident in his senior year.
Dr. Joel Levinson, died in February. In addition to his medical practice in Springfield, he served as chief of gastroenterology, and later chief of medicine at Overlook Hospital in Summit.  In 1990, he became vice-president of the medical staff at Overlook, and then President.

After her son died, Mrs. Levinson donated funds to make some repairs to the gazebo. But it was after her husband’s death, and the additional contributions made in his memory, that she looked to do something more substantial.

Her donation of $17,000 enabled a new waterwheel to be designed and built by a craftsman in Georgia, along with some needed structural repairs to the gazebo. County carpenters and other public works staff provided the labor.

“We really cannot thank Mrs. Levinson enough,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Deborah Scanlon. “Her gift, in memory of her son, Kipp, and husband, Joel, is also a gift to everyone who visits this park.”

“Echo Lake is one of the jewels of Union County’s park system, with its lakes and Great Lawn, which is home to summer concerts and winter sledding. And now, to just be able to sit in the gazebo and watch the waterwheel turning once again, it’s just wonderful,” Scanlon said.

Plans for rededicating the gazebo and waterwheel had to be cancelled due to the Halloween eve storm and will be rescheduled for the spring, according to county parks officials.

The Echo Lake waterwheel is one of nearly 100 waterwheels Spencer Boyd made at his Georgia shop this year.  It is 11’10” in diameter—the tallest he could build and clear the overpasses coming up Interstate 95. It’s made of western red cedar from Missouri and white cedar from Alberta, Canada and weighed 2,000 pounds when it arrived. But once it becomes waterlogged, Boyd said, a wheel will double in weight.

The installation this summer went smoothly, although it took a little longer than his normal 30-minute installation because of the time it took to get the brakes lined up, he said.

“Waterwheels are very simple. It’s just that we don’t live with them every day, the way they did a hundred years ago,” Boyd said.

However, he did warn that visitors to the wheel may at times hear a groaning sound.

“All wheels over six or eight feet have a groaning  or rubbing sound. Most people who work with waterwheels say ‘it’s singing.’ Then it will stop for a few years and start up again.”

Levinson said she still remembers the winter day, about a year after Kipp died, walking in Union County’s Briant Park in Summit.  She saw a bench that appeared to have a plaque on it.

“It is so unlike me to clamor through snow, with my sneakers, through a snow drift, but I did and the plaque described how the bench was donated in memory of someone,” she said.

So Levinson wrote a check to the parks department, but indicated she wanted to have the bench placed in Echo Lake.

When the bench came in, she went down to the park to find an appropriate spot.

“There was an old groundskeeper there who was getting ready to retire. I wish I remembered his name. And he started to tell me all about the history of the park and the Olmsted legacy, and the philosophy of building parks for the people, not the elite, as they were doing in Europe,” Levinson said.

After her husband died and more money was donated in his memory, Levinson realized the memorial fund she started could take on a much bigger project.  And she recalled her walk through Echo Lake with the groundskeeper and their stop at the gazebo--and how it was so sorely in need of repair.

Levinson said she is thrilled with the way everything has turned out.

“I go there a lot. I still walk the dog there and I’ll stop off and check it out,” she said. “It’s a very peaceful, beautiful place. It has a sort of Japanese feeling. Many times there are photographers there and people painting. The gazebo was put in a fabulous spot. It’s very touching to have something that will remain forever in a park with their names on it.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Sun, May 20, 8:00 AM

Summit Summer Farmers Market, Summit

Summit Farmers Market

Community Calendar Food & Drink Green Health & Wellness


Sun, May 20, 2:00 PM

Summit High School, Summit

Summit Symphony Orchestra Concert

Arts & Entertainment


Mon, May 21, 7:45 AM

17 Kent Place Boulevard, Summit

Monday Morning Yoga

Health & Wellness

Summit Police Blotter

May 17, 2018

4/24 - At 0728 hours a report was taken for a theft of two (2) sandwiches from a business on Morris Avenue. The manager reported that at approximately 0330 hours a male entered the business and removed two sandwiches from a refrigerated case. After doing so, he exited the store without paying for them. The male suspect was described as Hispanic, approximately 6’0”wearing a blue/gray ...

College for Teens Program at Union County College

May 20, 2018

CRANFORD – This summer the Office of Continuing Education at Union County College is offering the 2018 College for Teens program sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The program is offered for two sessions. Each session will be held for two weeks and will meet from Monday through Thursday. During the session students have the chance to explore and research careers ...

Young Life Trivia Night at Calvary Church

Ever wonder what Young Life is all about? This is a chance to enjoy a fun night of trivia and hear about the heart of Young Life in Summit.

A team consist of 6 to 8 players. Partial teams or individuals are acceptable. Trivia Night is for all players age 10 to age 100+

Food & Drinks
Pizza, salad, snacks and soft drinks will be served

Given to the 1st, 2nd ...

Stocks Can Rise in a Rising Interest Rate Environment

Investors remain concerned about the potential impact of higher interest rates on stocks. In their most recently released minutes, the Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee indicated the US economy is on solid footing and the economic conditions warrant continued gradual increasing of interest rates. This set off a sale in the stock and bond markets as investors began pricing in a fourth ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!


Managing the Ups and Downs of First-Time Homebuying

They accepted our offer, now what?

At times both equally exhilarating and terrifying, the purchase of a home can be a total roller coaster ride -- especially when it is your first time going through the process. Between suddenly being expected to understand the intricacies of contracts and the inner workings of a home, you are also expected to start writing checks for amounts you may ...

SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...

Avenging Movie Credits

Warning! Nothing you read here will spoil Avengers: Infinity Wars because I didn’t understand it.

As a vibrant, relevant, totally hip and “with it” dad I am proud to say that I have now seen every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  All nineteen of them.

I am less proud to admit that, of those Marvel movies that I can remember, I didn’t understand any of ...