The Lake Hopatcong Foundation, buoyed by two major grants, is moving ahead with the purchase of a new floating classroom, which could take students out on the waters of New Jersey’s largest lake by the spring.

The Foundation recently selected Sightseer Marine to build the vessel for the Lake Hopatcong floating classroom, with delivery of the vessel anticipated by May 1.

Funding for the boat is being provided in part by grants from the USA TODAY Network’s “A Community Thrives” program — which awarded the Foundation $50,000 — and the James P. Verhalen Family Foundation (undisclosed amount).

The Foundation will finance the remainder of the costs.

The custom-built, 40-foot, covered pontoon boat will provide interactive, hands-on experiences to educate students on fresh water ecology and how to help protect our lakes. The foundation plans to host 1,000 fourth grade students on the floating classroom in our first year and it will be open to the public one day per week in July and August. The fee structure is being established.

A boat similar to one to be used as Lake Hopatcong’s floating classroom.

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation competed for the USA Today’s philanthropic program, which is designed to enable communities to act on ideas, equipping residents, organizations, government, and businesses with the resources they need to succeed.

Lake Hopatcong Foundation Chairman Marty Kane pitched the floating classroom project to the Morris County Board of Freeholders at their April 12 meeting.

“This is a terrific educational concept that could be valuable to school districts throughout Morris County,” said Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, who urged county residents to support the concept by voting for it in the USA Today competition.

The floating classroom would allow the foundation to bring students and people of all ages onto the lake to provide a hands-on experience to learn about fresh water ecology and how to help protect our lakes.

After spending time on the floating classroom participants will gain new knowledge, skills and values that cultivate environmentally responsible behavior.

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 Lake Hopatcong 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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