Lake Solitude it was not.
For years, the 35-acre picturesque lake, waterfall and century-old dam had been an unspoiled treasure for local residents, but through the power of social media, the secret got out.
People began pouring in, bringing portable speakers, children and food, and leaving behind trash. Borough officials installed extra garbage cans and portable toilets, and brought in police officers to direct traffic — many vehicles with New York license plates. On a recent Sunday, some visitors had to be turned away.
Residents had seen enough. They swarmed a virtual town-hall-style meeting this month, demanding that Lake Solitude be shut. Last week, the Borough of High Bridge complied, closing the area to all visitors.
Doesn’t seem totally unreasonable at first glance, I guess. But…
“We have droves of out-of-state Spanish people and they leave their crap lying on the ground,” said Lester Tomson, 58, who regularly fished the stream.
Mr. Tomson, a registered Democrat, is one of a number of people who, on social media and in conversation, have suggested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should have been called to the park.
“It’s not a racist thing,” he said in an interview. “It’s a thing where you observe things, and your observations are based in facts and not in racism.”
In High Bridge, the decision last week to close Lake Solitude was made for health precautions and because the parking lots were at capacity, according to the borough’s mayor, Michele Lee.
But three days earlier, during the virtual meeting, some public comments cited other reasons: One man expressed that he felt unsafe after a male visitor to the lake said, “Hola, señorita,” to his wife.
“We are an inclusive community. We are going to be accepting of everybody, regardless of race or faith or who you love,” Mayor Lee, a Democrat, said. “We did what we have to do because it was really becoming a safety concern.”
The mayor said that the crowds grew drastically after a TikTok video that called the site a “hidden gem” went viral.
Ms. Lee said that the borough’s decision had nothing to do with any overt or subtle xenophobia or racism — like the discussions about the cleanliness of “those people” that could recently be overheard over pints of Keepin’ Local beer on the patio of a local brewery and taproom.
This is how white supremacy works. It’s not just about the KKK. And it’s not located in rural Alabama. It’s located next door. It’s located in the suburbs. It’s located in rich whites in cities. It’s located in you. And the lesson of the present needs to be to attack that within you in active ways.