People always cite Tavistock as having the smallest population of any town in New Jersey. And that’s true. Tavistock has five residents. But what we don’t hear much about is Walpack, New Jersey, a town with only nine residents.

You can’t compare it to Tavistock in any way. Tavistock’s population is low because it’s sort of a town, but sort of a golf course. Tavistock has property taxes in the tens of thousands and a couple of luxurious mansions.

Walpack's property taxes are a couple hundred a year. And Walpacks teeny population happened organically.

People fled. And the story of how that happened is way more interesting than you ever knew. Actually, back in The '70s, Walpack was just another cute little very small town in New Jersey with a few hundred residents. And then what happened changed everything.

Walpack’s decline stems from the infamous Tocks Island Dam project. Back in the '50s, the federal government came up with an idea to dam up the Delaware River and create a huge 37-mile-long lake between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Not only would this proposed lake have reduced the flooding problems the area had back then, but its proponents thought it would be a recreational paradise. Tourists! Money! It was a win/win in the feds’ and the state’s minds.

No doubt employing the infamous eminent domain laws that we have seen used and abused here in New Jersey, in preparation for the endeavor, the federal government started gobbling up properties right and left (literally!) along the banks of the river.

The only problem? Towns would be buried underwater and completely lost if the dam came to be. And, in typical government fashion, no one seemed to care.

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Worried residents started to leave. The project was ultimately scrapped, but that didn’t stop the mass exodus out of the areas that would be affected. And of course, one of those was Walpack. Walpack was a town that would’ve been underwater should this project have come to fruition. And that handful of holdouts are pretty much the group who live there now.

The dam proposal was tabled in the late 1970s and now all of the land that was purchased by the federal government is now part of the Delaware National Water Recreation area and enjoyed by thousands of Sussex County residents. Including, of course, the nine in Walpack.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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