Who Owns Godfrey Lake?

Question of Herbertsville lake's ownership still unknown to officials

Once upon a time, Godfrey Lake was more than just an afterthought to the thousands of motorists who pass by it every day as they drive on Herbertsville Road.

But for many years, township officials have not known what, exactly, they could do to improve the lake's condition. The problem: nobody knows who owns it.

After the township started digging into records dating back to the 1920s several years ago, they came up with more questions than answers. Business Administrator Scott Pezarras said a title search revealed that the lake's owner is the estate of the president of the defunct corporation that developed the area around the lake.

That scenario presents an entirely new set of issues, according to Township Attorney Jean Cipriani, who said the township must find the owner's heirs in order to take any action on the property, including condemning the lake.

"No matter what, we have to find these heirs," Cipriani said.

For that search to take place, there could be a "significant cost," she added.

If no heirs can be found, there is a process by which the township could condemn the lake on its own, though Cipriani said "every reasonable attempt" must be made to locate the would-be lake owners before any condemnation proceedings could commence.

The last sign of its past still remains partially intact: seven pilings that once made up a dock, perhaps a platform from which swimmers could jump in the water on a warm summer day.

The lake was once part of a bungalow community known as the Godfrey Manor Country Club, after it was developed in the mid 1920s by Charles F. Godfrey and E.L. Godfrey, according to the book "Greetings From Brick Township," written by township historian Gene Donatiello.

At some point, the bungalow community organization was dissolved, leaving the lake's status up in the air.

For decades, the sizable lake has been largely forgotten despite its prime location alongside one of the township's most heavily-traveled roads.

From time to time, someone brings up the fact that something must be done about its appearance. A rusty guard rail on Herbertsville Road isn't aesthetically pleasing, people say, nor are the empty soda and beer cans that litter its shores. The water, most would agree, does not appear suitable for swimming.

For years, the lake was heavily overgrown with lilly pads and weeds. During most summers, the vegetation reappears.

The lake's owner may not want to step out of the shadows, however.

Cipriani said whomever owns the lake could be responsible for years of unpaid property taxes.

Mark Wendell March 07, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Regarding someone's concern that the township is trying to condemn the lake. If the township "condemned" the lake doesn't that mean they can get title and then remedy the problem. I remember seeing people on the swim platform on the way to the beach in the 70's. With the recent grim reports regarding NJ's river's I wonder if dredging it would make a difference.
Sophia Loyd March 08, 2012 at 02:34 AM
I am no spring chicken, but.. it says right in the article about condemning the lake. A user did not create that idea. So what you are saying is.. they can condemn it and then what.. it stays as is because they do not have the deed. The heir should come forward and then just donate it to a wetlands preserve.
Sean Conneamhe March 08, 2012 at 12:24 PM
"Perhaps a non-political 'Friends of Godfrey Lake' entity should be formed to raise private donations, locate the heirs, get title to the property, and restore and maintain the property. Whatever government permits are required should be obtained, but government, politicians, and tax money should not be involved. Make it a 'People's Park' by offering memberships and soliciting donations and volunteer labor. It is something to consider."
mike tetrault April 09, 2012 at 04:34 AM
To all the knuckel heads out there,who question Mark Story Jenks; ,he is an herbertsville historian,who,s family has lived here for generations.i grew up on lake Howard,1 of 2 lakes that feed into the back of boland lake.all the lakes were created by the county for the fire department,a water source in case of a fire.fire hydrants did not exist in brick before 1980.
Out Of Towner August 22, 2012 at 04:51 PM
All lake water in the State is owned by the State and Governed by the DEP. They are held in stewartship by the town. Which means they should be protected by the town against illegal contamination and so forth. The property owners only hold rights to the ground under the water and lake bottom taxes are usually very low kind of like Farm Tax. Unless the lake is deamed to be on County Property, they would have nothing to do with it. The DEP could at some point condemn the dam and have it removed if the property owner would not replace or repair as the State Engineers require.


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