Viral video brought crowds to NJ ‘hidden gem’ — and now it’s closed
A Hunterdon County recreation area that became famous on TikTok has been closed after reports of unruly behavior.
The video titled "Hidden Gems in New Jersey" showcases the Lake Solitude Dam in High Bridge. It was appealing enough to draw crowds that began to build in May, High Bridge Mayor Michele Lee told New Jersey 101.5.
"What I am gathering is that it's part of a series, #hiddengems, that people have been following," Lee said Friday. "I can't say for sure that's the only reason they started coming out but I'm thinking after the first one or two weekends in May, word just started to spread and by the Fourth of July we were just overcome with people."
Lee said the spot saw at least 100 people on Fourth of July weekend.
The post has been shared nearly 19,000 times.
The area is not really a park, Lee said, describing it as a conservation land and home to protected wildlife. The largest crowd would normally be about a dozen visitors at once so the borough was not prepared and did not have any trash cans or restrooms available, Lee said.
Lee said trash cans and portable bathrooms were in place for the holiday but the crowds grew even larger the following weekend leading to "hundreds of cars showing up" and parking on private property plus smoking, drinking, littering and playing loud music
"It created kid of a mess in the borough," Lee said.
"We're a small community. We only have a few police officers and we just couldn't manage the traffic. That's when we decided to close. We had a pretty big council meeting to talk about the rules that we were going to have signage about that would help people understand they can't bring alcohol and they can't smoke."
Lee issued an administrative order on Monday that temporarily closed Lake Solitude, Solitude Dam, Solitude House and areas along the river within the borough in order to "develop a comprehensive strategy to better deal with these unsafe conditions."
The mayor has another theory about why the area has gained popularity: spillover from nearby Round Valley, which quickly reaches capacity, and prohibited swimming at Spruce Run because of harmful algal bloom.
"They're coming in from New York, driving two hours to get here and finding out they want to go to Spruce Run and it's closed," Lee said.
Lake Solitude was built in 1858 as a power source for the foundry and became a popular recreation area. The current dam, called a buttress dam, was built in 1909 and is the last of its type in New Jersey.
This isn't the only scenic site that's pitted visitors against locals.
Hedden County Park in Morris County is closed until July 28 after people set a trash container on fire, illegally dammed Jackson Brook in order to create swimming holes, left trash throughout the park, drank alcohol without a permit and damaged restrooms.