Tuscarora State Park beach closed due to algae

·3 min read

Jun. 16—BARNESVILLE — Swimming is not allowed at the beach at Tuscarora State Park until further notice, just as the summer heats up.

"It's very disappointing," said Barnesville resident Jacob Ackles as he prepared to kayak from the shore with his Chihuahua Lola. "I come here all the time to cool off."

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which runs the park in Rush, Ryan and Schuylkill townships, announced Wednesday that the Tuscarora Lake beach was closed because harmful algae was detected.

Park manager Nicholas Sulzer said the state Department of Environmental Protection tested the algae levels at the popular swimming and picnicking spot earlier this week as part of routine testing at Tuscarora and nearby Locust Lake State Park. The results came in Wednesday morning.

"We closed it as soon as they came in," he said.

Signs at the beach and its entrance advise visitors of the closure, with the water being greenish-yellow. Despite the lake being closed to swimming, just over a dozen people were at the beach Wednesday afternoon, picnicking on the shore while children ran around.

Some of those who visited said they didn't know they couldn't take a dip in the water until they arrived. A few people that arrived in swimsuits and carrying floaties were informed of the closure by fellow beachgoers.

Tamaqua resident Samantha Martinez was among those who learned of the closure when she came to the park with her husband, Frank Martinez, and young sons, Aaron, Daniel and Jacob Martinez.

"It's annoying," she said. "My kids are disappointed."

Ackles and his mom, Vicki Valentine, also of Barnesville, said they come to the park often to swim and kayak. Valentine said the closure comes at a bad time of the year.

"When it's hot, like it is today, it's a place to cool off," she said.

Valentine said she feels for families that come from far away to swim at the lake.

Ange Woodfin came to the lake from Shamokin with her girlfriend, Amanda Homscher, of Mifflinburg, son Brisyn Woodfin, niece Mel Albany and nephew Hunter Albany. While she came with her 3-year-old son a year and a half ago, it was the first time her niece and nephew were at the beach.

Despite the closure, she said they still had fun and enjoyed the day.

"It is what it is," Woodfin said. "The kids are still enjoying themselves and the weather is nice."

When it is open, she said the lake is a good place to swim.

Valentine, Ackles and Martinez said they planned to go to nearby Locust Lake State Park, whose beach is open for swimming.

Sulzer said several types of cyanol, or blue green, algae occur naturally in water bodies in the state and, depending on weather conditions, can reach a level that can be harmful to people and animals.

The park is required to test for E. Coli on a weekly basis, and they look for signs of algae growth.

Although the beach has been closed when park staff tests for E. Coli, Sulzer said this is the first time the beach has been closed because of elevated algae levels since he started managing it and Locust Lake State Park in July 2020.

He said it isn't fun to close down a popular recreation area, but he has to keep people safe.

Officials said it would remain closed until acceptable water samples are received. Sulzer said the state DEP and park staff will retest it until they find safe algae levels.

They urged caution for those doing activities near the lake, and not to boat or paddleboard in water with scum or discoloration. Pets should be kept out of the water and from drinking lake water.

The park remains open for camping, picnicking and hiking.

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