Annual Meeting Features View from the Garden State Yacht Club

Members of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation welcomed president Jessica Murphy back from a 20-month education sabbatical at the annual membership meeting held on May 4 at the Garden State Yacht Club.

Murphy introduced her two-month-old daughter, Charlotte, to the membership. Donna Macalle-Holly, who served as acting executive director during Murphy’s absence, is returning to her duties as grants coordinator.

“We all thought Bela was crazy,” said Marty Kane, chair of the foundation’s board. He was referring to Bela Szigethy, who came up with the idea (and much of the initial funding) for the foundation. “People didn’t have the feeling for the lake. The heart was missing,” Kane continued. “But we changed the mentality. People feel good.”

Part of the change is the development by Szigethy’s Camp Six on Nolan’s Point, according to Kane, and part is the redevelopment of the Landing Railroad Station. But the most significant change is the partnership of the four municipalities that circle the lake and the willingness to work with the Lake Musconetcong Regional Planning Board.

“If we can link with the residents and people who use the lake and get talking, we can explain the whole concept of respect and sharing the lake,” Kane stated. He cited a feud between homeowners and boaters in Byram Cove. “Everyone was unhappy. It was a good test case to see if people can share the lake.” Admittedly the solution wasn’t perfect, he said, but the situation is much better, with less noise and late partying.

Kane praised the 200 volunteers and staff who make the annual Lake Hopatcong block party possible, as well as those who work on the gala, lake loop, and other fundraisers. “Our goal was to make the foundation sustainable,” he said, “and the only way to be sustainable is a constant flow of money.” Noting that the gala is a highbrow event, Kane promised a lowbrow one as well for the lake communities.

The Environment is Key

Macalle-Holly reported on “the core of our mission: to protect the ecosystem.” She noted that the foundation received funding in 2017 for water quality monitoring by environmental consultants Princeton Hydro. The Lake Hopatcong Commission will maintain  monitoring once a month at 11 locations around the lake.

The foundation will continue to train water scouts to hand-pull water chestnuts. A study of methods of weed control will be carried on this summer because the harvesters are going out earlier than last year, making it possible to study selective herbicide application after harvesting.

Cooperating with the commission, the foundation is proposing a pilot program for sterile grass carp to remove leafy growth in certain areas of the lake.

Education is another important mission of the foundation. The winners of this year’s two $1,000 scholarships are due to be announced soon, said Macalle-Holly.

She also spoke about the floating classroom, which was officially named Study Hull just before the meeting. At first, fourth graders and some fifth graders will learn to protect the lake. “We would like to expand the program to include kindergarten through eighth grade, but the initial expansion will be to sixth through eighth.” There will also be an educational field trip to the state park for about 800 students over seven days. Macalle-Holly said new volunteers are always needed.

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The opening of the Lake Hopatcong trail near the Hopatcong Senior Center was also an occasion for celebration. The Hopatcong Borough Environmental Commission got a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions to work on the trail, which is part of the Federal Highway Administration trails program. It took 70 volunteers 220 hours over 23 days to clear 12 miles of trail. This counted as a $12,000 in-kind contribution to match the grant. The next portion of the trail will be in Jefferson Township. A Morris County grant will create a trail from Prospect Point to and around Liffy Island.

Kane spoke about historic preservation. The train station is close to completion, and foundation staff should be in their new quarters by July. “Doors would help,” he quipped, but windows are in, walls are plastered, floors are partially tiled, and bathrooms are almost finished. “I hope we can host a lot of events,” he said, citing community meetings and perhaps the Morris County Freeholders traveling meeting.

There has not been as much progress on Lee’s Park or the fountain at Hopatcong State Park. The pavilion at Lee’s Park did not make the list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places this year, but Kane said the foundation is hoping for next year. “I’m not going to defend the ugly building,” he said of the temporary structure adjacent to the pavilion.

Regarding the lack of progress on the fountain at the state park, Kane reported, “I believe it will start up again.”

Board member Tom Flinn said that more than 30 percent of the docks around the lake are numbered. Although that was the goal, many of the numbered docks are neighbors, leaving long stretches without identification. He implored anyone who knows of a long stretch of lakefront without dock numbers to become an advocate for numbering. This will help stranded boaters, who otherwise may have a problem identifying where they are when calling for help.

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