BY JEFF FALK
EAST HANOVER – It may be a bit obscure, a bit of ‘outside the box’ thinking, a bit of acknowledging heroism with an animate object. But there may be few better ways to honor active military personnel and fallen soldiers than with a lake.
In many aspects, Memorial Lake State Park is a tribute to a lifestyle that those brave men and women swore to protect.
Situated north of Annville in East Hanover Township, and encompassed by Fort Indiantown Gap, headquarters for the Pennsylvania Army and Air National Guard, Memorial Lake State Park is one of Lebanon County’s most visited and respected parks. Over the years it has gained a reputation locally as a place to interact and become one with nature.
“Honestly, because I deal with the people, one of the things I like most about the park is our staff,” said Corey Snyder, Memorial Lake State Park’ manager. “It’s a terrific staff. They genuinely care, not just about the park, but also about the people who come here. And a lot of kind people come here.
“This staff has worked very hard since I’ve been here,” continued Snyder. “It’s a neat area. I feel like I have a responsibility for the park to keep it in the condition it should be, to honor the soldiers. We take a personal approach to the park. And the people who come here are very kind and very friendly.”
It is very much indicative of the lay of the land at the base of the Blue Mountain.
“We have a really good relations with ‘The Gap’,” said Snyder. “Some of it’s formal. Some of its informal. But we always stay in contact with them. It was first established as a recreational area, not for just soldiers, but also in memory and to honor soldiers who served in World War II and World War I.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” added Snyder. “I grew up in this area and we used to frequent it a lot. It’s considered the best place to picnic in Lebanon County and the second best place to go for a walk or a run.”
During the summer, visitors boat, sail, fish, picnic, play sand volleyball and walk or run on the park’s five trails. There are also multiple playgrounds for younger visitors, as well as two rare butterfly fields.
Over the winter, ice skating, ice fishing and cross country skiing are all made available.
“Boating is really popular, and it seems to be getting more popular,” said Snyder. “The thing I like is that you can walk across the dam breast. Pavilions are extremely popular, and they seem to be reserved every single weekend, for family reunions and parties. It’s mostly families, and you see a lot of younger kids coming here to fish. We try to host a lot of different people.
It’s a safe, relaxing atmosphere around here,” continued Snyder. “I ask people, ‘What can we do more? What can we change? What do you like?’ And they say, ‘It’s peaceful.’ It seems like it’s their quiet spot.”
“I see that number once a year, and I think it’s impressive,” said Snyder. “We try to expand the different types of recreational activities. The last few years we added a new area for foot traffic. We’re always adding new picnic tables. We’re trying to get the infrastructure taken care of, the bare bones satisfied again. Just a fresh coat of paint. It’s shoring up the things you see on a daily basis and making them ‘pop’ again. Just to have that longevity. Making sure things are in good condition, so things last longer down the road. And we’re doing our very best to suppress the invasive species.
“The idea of physical activity is certainly to keep yourself healthy,” Snyder added. “With the trails and the boats, you can work on your legs and arms. They’re doing a lot of yoga out here. It’s good to see, and you see people running and walking. There’s a big push to get healthy again. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.
Snyder and his staff seem to realize that more isn’t necessarily better. While they strive to provide as many physical activities as possible, they aren’t interested in doing it at the expense of their natural surroundings.
“What would I do if I had a blank check?,” said Snyder. ‘It’s a delicate balance. You want to have as many recreational activities as possible. But you want to keep the resources. Maybe we could use better trail maintenance, or more pavilions. An environmental education staff would be a great addition. Maybe new bathrooms at some of the areas. Nothing big, just a bunch of little things.
“Years from now we’re hoping to still be in business,” Snyder continued. “Hopefully, I’d like to get more people in here. I’d like to host more events, maybe something with crafts and food. And I’d like to see more veterans come in here, and maybe some newer trails. I’d like to leave the park, as a whole, on a stronger foundation, so we can be here years down the road.”