A floating classroom has arrived at Lake Hopatcong through the initiative of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. The 40-foot covered catamaran pontoon boat with seating for 40 passengers plus crew was launched on April 11 at Hopatcong State Park. The vessel was built by Sightseer Marine based in Hudson, Florida.

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s ‘Floating Classroom’, pictured. (Photo by Karen Fucito of Lake Hopatcong News, Provided by Lake Hopatcong Foundation)

“We are so excited to bring the floating classroom experience to Lake Hopatcong for students and the public,” said Lake Hopatcong Foundation acting executive director Donna Macalle-Holly. “It will provide an interactive, hands-on educational experience to study the lake ecology, to understand why improving water quality is so important, and to learn what can be done to protect the lake.”

The purchase of the floating classroom was made possible with support from the Gannett Foundation/USA Today Network’s “A Community Thrives” program, the James P. Verhalen Family Foundation, and the Szigethy family. Macalle-Holly told The Jefferson Chronicle she received the news about winning the Gannett Foundation $50,000 grant early on a Saturday morning last spring, which set the wheels in motion for the Lake Hopatcong Foundation to move forward with acquisition of the vessel.

The Lake Hoaptcong Foundation’s ‘Floating Classroom’ fueling up. (Photo provided by Lake Hopatcong Foundation)

The boat will be christened and named at the foundation’s annual meeting on Friday, May 4, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Garden State Yacht Club. The meeting is open to the public.

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation offers a fee-based field trip for fourth- and fifth-graders that includes the floating classroom, macro-invertebrate sampling in the Musconetcong River, a discovery hike, and a watershed model to demonstrate water pollution concepts and their prevention. Currently, 800 students are scheduled to participate in the educational field trip program. There is limited availability in May and June for additional schools to participate. For more information on the field trip program, contact the foundation at 973-663-2500.

The floating classroom will also be open to the public in July and August, operating on a limited schedule from Hopatcong State Park. More details on the public schedule and cost will be announced.

Lake Hopatcong Foundation volunteers Tom Bush and Jerry Finlow, pictured readying the ‘Floating Classroom’. (Photo provided by Lake Hopatcong Foundation)

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation found inspiration for the floating classroom from other on-the-water educational programs. Foundation staff and volunteers visited the Lake George Association Floating Classroom in New York, the Hackensack Riverkeeper Eco-Cruise, and the SPLASH Steamboat Floating Classroom on the Delaware River.

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission of “improving Lake Hopatcong for all, now and in the years to come.” Launched in 2012, the foundation aims to improve and enhance the lake experience and environment. Initiatives range from invasive species prevention to lake education to improved safety, and more. To learn more, visit www.lakehopatcongfoundation.org.

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