HOPATCONG – Lakefront residents from Byram Cove came out in force at Monday’s Lake Hopatcong Commission meeting, voicing their concerns about excessive loud music, foul language, littering, and lewdness that they say occurs throughout the weekend in their part of Lake Hopatcong.
Addressing a standing room only crowd at the Hopatcong Senior Center that included Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo and representatives from the NJ State Police, Byram Cove resident Jason Cromley read from a prepared statement that said, in part, “…hundreds of boats—sometimes as many as 400—cram into our tiny cove…We are tired of the loud music being blasted from many of the boats on the cove…We find garbage washing up on our shores and in our boathouses after the partiers in the cove leave…Several of us have had issues with partiers in the cove trespassing on our property.”
Cromley was just one of more than a handful of residents to speak out against the weekend boat population in Byram Cove. Most named the Byram Cove Party (BCP) and their Facebook page as the source of the problem, a charge vehemently denied by the group’s representative, Brian DeVries.
In his address, Cromley references multiple posts from the website, posts that encourage all-day drinking and drug use, and posts that show suggestive photos.
“The BCP says that they are not the problem and that they respect the homeowners on Byram Cove. Many of us disagree,” said Cromley.
In defense of the group, DeVries, a family man in his 40s, introduced other members of the BCP in attendance, a dozen or so people in their 30s and 40s, some with teenage children at their sides. He defined the group as “30, 40 and 50-year-old professionals who come to the lake to enjoy themselves.”
“I sympathize with you. We sympathize with you,” he said passionately after rattling off a number of charitable events the group has volunteered for.
“We’re not the bad guys and girls here. There are a handful of bad apples are out there. We despise them too.”
DeVries urged the homeowners for a chance to work together to ensure that the lake is a “fun place” for everyone. Many of the people who spoke in support of the BCP group accused the homeowners of over exaggerating the situation.
Mayor Petillo, in a brief statement, showed her support for the homers, believing that social media is to blame, and that the situation is “escalating to the point where there’s lawlessness going on.”
During the meeting, Sgt. Guy Stankiewicz from the NJ State Police barracks on Lake Hopatcong weighed in with suggestions for immediate action.
Beginning this weekend,he said, the state police will station a patrol boat in or just on the perimeter of Byram Cove during peak tie-up hours. He also encouraged homeowners to call the state police with grievances and urged the homeowners to file complaints.
“If you guys aren’t happy, give the state police a call,” he said.
According to Stankiewicz, as a long-term solution, the state police department is also looking into adding another patrol on the lake.
Commissioner Kerry Kirk Pflugh, representing the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, asked DeVries, through the BCP Facebook page, and the media, to “let people know the cove is being watched and that citations will be issued.”
Cromley asked the commission to set up a task force to help combat the situation but was turned down by Chairman Russ Felter.
“Let’s start with what the troopers said they will do. Lets see how things are going to work in the next few weeks,” said Felter. “I do suspect these are weekend warriors who come up on weekends, raise hell and then are gone.”
While Cromley is disappointed the commission did not form a task force he is encouraged by the state police patrols.
“It’s a start if they follow through,” he said after the meeting.
IN OTHER NEWS
Commissioner Joel Servoss, representing Sussex County, and Commissioner Anne Seibert-Pravs, representing Mount Arlington, questioned why the invasive Water Chestnut plant, found in the lake near Liffy Island, was pulled by a DEP intern and not an experienced biologist. A delicate operation, if done improperly, could result in an explosion of plants in the next growing season. Apparently the plants were pulled from the lake without conferring with anyone associated with The Lake Hopatcong Foundation’s Water Scouts, a group of volunteers who routinely patrol the lake looking for the plant and who have experience in pulling the plants from the water.
According to Commissioner Kirk Pflugh, eradicating the Water Chestnut from a body of water is “one of the functions Fish and Wildlife plays. The fact is they were pulled. It’s out of there. That’s a good thing.”
Kirk Pflugh said that going forward the DEP will work directly with the Water Scouts program.
Dan Bello, environmental specialist with the DEP, reported on the weed harvesting program currently underway on the lake.
According to Bello, the program is a full month ahead of last years schedule with four harvesters and one transport barge in operation on the lake and assured the board that “we’re definitely ahead of the game from last year.” But, he conceded, because of a lack of seasonal manpower, the program is facing some hurdles which could slow it down.
“We’re having trouble getting people on board,” he said of hiring seasonal employees, adding that everyone already hired, including himself and his seasonal secretary, are chipping in wherever needed.
Bello also reported that approximately 15 to 20 percent of a $40,000 parts order was stolen before being delivered to the maintenance yard in Franklin thus effecting the repair schedule for the two small harvesters and the second transport barge.
Bello reported that most of the harvesting is being done in the weed-thick areas of River Styx and Crescent Cove. Some commissioners and residents of those areas present at the meeting challenged his report saying the harvesters were not on sight at often as he claimed. And, said one River Styx resident who works from home, witnessed a harvester moving “willie nillie” through the cove. “It made no sense how he was doing the cove,” she said.
The next commission meeting is schedule for Monday, July 21 at 7pm. The meeting will be held at the Hopatcong Senior Center.