There will be a small cranberry harvest at Double Trouble State Park in October, now that the state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a special use permit to a private company.
The owners of Honest Berries approached Area Supervisor Ray Bukowski this summer and asked about the possibility of working the bogs, with an October harvest as the goal.
"They signed with me about eight or nine days ago," said Bukowski, who oversees both Double Trouble and Island Beach State Park. "They do blueberries and cranberries in other locations."
The acres of bogs at the park off Pinewald-Keswick Road have lain fallow for almost two years. The last cranberry harvest was in October 2010. But the former leaseholders retired and the state was unable to find an interested party last year.
Park Resources Interpretive Specialist Andrew Anderson has raised and lowered the water levels in the bogs when needed, in addition to his other duties at the park. But weeding and maintaining the bogs is too much for one person, Bukowski said.
"Everyday we don't maintain it, it just gets that much worse," he said.
Honest Berries employees are already on site at the park, Bukowski said.
"They are already working," he said. "Lots of weeding. They are going to get a harvest out of this year. I want to see them get a return on their investment."
The Leni-Lenape Indians were the first to harvest cranberries in the park. But the Double Trouble cranberry industry began to flourish at the beginning of the 20th century, when Edward Crabbe of Toms River bought the Double Trouble Tract in 1904.
Crabbe first cut down cedar for his flourishing lumber business. But as the marshes were gradually cleared of cedar, Crabbe decided to make cranberries his primary business, his grandson Daniel Crabbe has said.
"They really went all out with the cranberries," Crabbe said during a talk at the Berkeley Township Historical Society earlier this year. "He built the packing house. He laid it out and built it himself. It was one of the most modern packing and sorting houses. They took the cranberry vines and placed them in the bog area. At the end, there were eight separate bogs."
During its halycon days, the Double Trouble Company employed five full-timers year round and between 50 to 60 seasonal employees for the harvest. The Crabbe family sold the Double Trouble tract to the state in 1964, for use as a state park.
The state then leased the bogs to private companies for many years. 2010 was one of the few times in nearly 100 years there was no harvest.
Daniel Crabbe even suggested earlier this year that the state lease the bogs for a dollar, so the berries wouldn't be left in the field to rot.
"It's a tradition," he said of the cranberry harvest.
Bukowski said it's unlikely there will be public tours during the harvest, due to the limited operations this year. But he is hoping Honest Berries will eventually become a leaseholder.
"I want to see them get a return on their investment," he said.
Had the company not stepped up, the cranberries would have rotted in the fields for the second year in a row. The two most visible bogs to the left of the sorting house and several further back in the park, near South Toms River, are the ones that are included in the special use permit, Bukowski said.