Most of the cranberries clinging to the tiny plants in the bogs at Double Trouble State Park are a pearly pale yellow now, in high summer. But by October, they will turn crimson, ready for harvest.
The last cranberry harvest at Double Trouble State Park was in 2010. Last fall was one of the few times over the past 100 years there was no commercial harvest, because no leaseholders stepped forward.
But State Department of Environmental Protection officials are hoping that will change this year.
The state has been working with an unidentified leaseholder to harvest some of the cranberry bogs at Double Trouble State Park in time for a small harvest in October.
"I can confirm we are trying to finalize an agreement with a leaseholder to farm the cranberry bogs at Double Trouble State Park," DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.
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."
Like his father, Daniel "Mac" McEwen Crabbe, Dan Crabbe spent some of his younger years working in the family business - the Double Trouble cranberry company.
During its halycon days, the Double Trouble Company employed five full-timers year round and between 50 to 60 seasonal employees for the harvest.
"It depended on the size of the crop," Crabbe said. "Most of the pickers came from Philadelphia. They were Italian. Whole families would come down. They were paid piecemeal, maybe 34 cents for a big box of cranberries. Come mid-September, they'd all arrive and it was a city. It was a lot of people and a lot of fun."
The Double Trouble Company soon became one of the largest cranberry operations in the state.
The Crabbe family sold the Double Trouble tract to the state's Green Acres program in 1964, but leased back 125 acres and the outbuildings to continue the cranberry business.
Since then, the bogs had been harvested by various second-generation cranberry farmers. The latest leaseholders decided to retire in 2010, according to the DEP.
"We are hopeful that with this pending agreement, the bogs that have been such an important part of Double Trouble State Park for decades will be well-maintained and provide educational opportunities for our visitors," Considine said.
The park's cranberry bogs are being maintained "to an extent" by park personnel, Considine said.
"If the agreement does become official in the short term, we are hopeful there can be at least some cranberry harvest this year," he said.