Happy July! As I emerge from several weeks of Lake Hopatcong Foundation focus groups and surveys, culminating with a strategic planning session with our board and staff, I am so optimistic about the future of Lake Hopatcong. Thank you to everyone who participated in giving us feedback, and I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate your ideas and your encouragement and support. You are helping us to know where to focus our efforts as we look to the future, and giving us some great brainstorms to follow up on.
A big part of my recent graduate studies at NYU focused on community engagement, and these group discussions have made me all the more excited to move into our new building and bring people in. Stay tuned as we move into the train station and open up a whole new chapter for the LHF that will allow even more public engagement with our efforts.
Simultaneous to all these activities, the good vibes were dampened by a targeted effort on social media and through word of mouth to undermine our work and our motives. I can assure you that the LHF exists solely for the purpose of improving and enhancing the lake environment and experience. Our track record in our six years of existence backs that up: we have dedicated resources to water quality monitoring, pulling invasive water chestnuts from the lake, educating launching boaters about preventing the spread of invasive species, improving safety through supplemental police patrols and dock numbers, running a comprehensive class trip program that has taught thousands of local elementary students about the Lake Hopatcong watershed, going into schools to teach local kids about water and ice safety, blazing a recreational trail around the lake, running a Block Party that brings all four lakeside towns together, and much more. And you don’t have to take it just from us: we have hundreds of volunteers who have made all these things possible—if you aren’t one, you almost certainly know one!
Although we believe a healthy and active Lake Hopatcong and surrounding community is good for the businesses that surround it, we are not beholden to any particular business interests; rather, we work every day to make Lake Hopatcong the best it can be for everyone. We are audited annually, and our finances and internal governance have always been found to be clean, as we are properly using our funds to support our mission.
Personally, there is no cause I feel more strongly about than working on behalf of Lake Hopatcong. When I was born, I lived in Hopatcong; when I was a toddler, my parents moved to Landing; and as a teenager my family moved to Mt. Arlington, where my parents still live. I grew up swimming, sailing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, and fishing on Lake Hopatcong alongside my parents, brothers, and grandparents, and now I am excited to continue those traditions with my husband (whom I met on the lake!) and three children. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to dedicate my career to protect a place that means so much to me.
Working alongside such a dedicated team, including our staff, board, and hundreds of amazing volunteers, it’s sometimes difficult not to take offense when those efforts are questioned in such a malicious way. But these last weeks of talking with the people around Lake Hopatcong through focus groups and surveys have helped assure me that we are doing work that resonates with the community, and that we have even better days ahead of us.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to continue to stay involved, and that includes attending public meetings, such as the Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on July 9 at the Hopatcong Senior Center, or the N.J. Boat Regulations Commission meeting at 10 a.m. on July 11 at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club. The more that governmental bodies see positive passion among those who live on and use the lake, the stronger our collective voice will be in Trenton and beyond.
And please keep giving us feedback at the Lake Hopatcong Foundation to help us continue to support the lake and surrounding community in a variety of ways. It’s not easy work—it sometimes involves digging your hands into mucky lake bottom, collecting critters alongside enthusiastic fourth graders, or making regular treks to Trenton to fight for the lake. But it’s so rewarding, and far more productive than stirring up anger and division from a keyboard.
Thank you for allowing us to do the work that we are so passionate about, and here’s to a wonderful summer ahead!