YARDLEY BOROUGH >> Under brilliant sunshine and a cloudless sky, a record number of volunteers showed up Saturday morning to help clean up Lake Afton.
From the young to the young at heart, more than 40 volunteers spent a busy morning trimming overgrowth, spreading mulch, raking leaves and planting bushes and perennials.
Yardley Borough Council President David Bria was there, spreading mulch. David Appelbaum of Experience Yardley and Rich Wayne, the leader of the Harvest Day Committee, also came out to help.
State Senator Steve Santarsiero stopped by to lend his support. Also joining the effort was Jeff Revak, a financial advisor with Edward Jones.
Young families also joined the effort planting bushes and spreading mulch. So did a number of senior citizens who brought their years of gardening experience with them to share.
And when it was all said and done, Yardley’s picturesque lake sparkled with a crisp and clean Earth Day look that had the ducks quacking their approval.
“It is really nice to see everyone come together for the lake,” said Friends of Lake Afton (FOLA) President Michelle Sharer. “Everybody pitched in and really made a big difference. It’s probably one of the best turn outs that we’ve had in a long time.”
The Friends of Lake Afton, a nonprofit organization dedicated to maintaining the picturesque lake, has organized cleanup days at the lake for many years as a way of bringing attention to the manmade pond created back in the 1700s to power the Yardley Grist Mill.
FOLA’s Marna Matthews helped organize the planting crews, picking out the bushes and plants that will take root and eventually fill in the landscape in and around the Old Library by Lake Afton.
Some of the new plantings include a bunch of Ostrich ferns, spirea, a Fothergilla, false indigo and some succulents, which have been added to the normally drier areas.
“We had a good clear out last fall so we had minimal weeding today, but the crew that arrived first thing in the morning had great enthusiasm. So we got so much done in the first two and a half hours it’s feeling amazing,” said Matthews. “And having a good contingent of high school kids come out, who are so willing and so easy to work with, and having the families come out is so special.”
FOLA leader Nick Primola said it was especially heartening to see all the young people who came out to help, many of them from the Pennsbury High School Honor Society.
“That tells me that the lake will be in good hands for a long time to come,” he said.
For the Friends of Lake Afton, it was a day of mixed emotions.
While they were thrilled by the record turnout from the community and the amount of work they were able to get done, they were saddened by the passing of a long time friend and volunteer, Dave Bowker Sr.
Bowker, who spent many years devoting his time and energy to the lake, died on April 18 just days before the cleanup.
“He gave so much care to this lake over the years as have three generations of his family,” said Primola. “They got us to where we are today with this beautiful lake. Today, seeing all the people out and working, is a great tribute to him and his family and the work they put in.”
Bowker lived within blocks of the lake and was a regular on cleanup days, along with his wife, Sandy, and his son, David. In more recent years, his son has stepped into his father’s role, organizing and leading the cleanup day efforts.
“It’s a nice tribute to Dave,” said Sharer of Saturday’s turnout of volunteers. “And it made me feel good knowing that when his family is leaving on Sunday they will get to see the lake looking so good.”
Looking ahead, the next big event for FOLA will be Harvest Day, to be held on Saturday, September 18. FOLA is hoping to bring canoe and boat rides back to the lake as a fundraiser for its ongoing efforts to keep the lake clear of algae.
The organization is also working on another initiative - Project Shade - which will eventually add new shade trees to the banks of Lake Afton. That project is scheduled for 2022.