About 300 people attended a kickoff rally for the Lake Hopatcong Alliance on Sunday morning at Kabob’s in Glasser, voicing support for a new nonprofit organization that would represent lake residents.
"This event has motivated people into action and into uniting to become one strong voice," said Ray Fernandez, a Jefferson Township resident and owner of Bridge Marina in Lake Hopatcong. "The group is in its infancy stages, but has a great opportunity to speak out for the lake and make positive changes."
The rally drew residents, business owners, and others concerned about water management, water quality, and other issues facing Lake Hopatcong. The Lake Hopatcong Alliance formed in May to unite and give a voice to citizens and groups around the lake and across the region, and its mission is “to safeguard Lake Hopatcong water levels and water quality to assure its future recreational, environmental, and economic value to our community and the people of the State of New Jersey.”
While addressing the crowd, Fernandez said, "No one is looking out for the interests of Lake Hopatcong… this season is a perfect example.” He specifically mentioned the low water levels that have plagued the lake this year, an issue that is linked to mismanagement by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection during the water drawdown over the winter. He noted that the first order of business is to work to have the lake’s water levels properly and proactively managed, and added that water quality, weeds, and the prospect of user fees are also issues that must be addressed in the short and long-term. “If we join together and speak out as a group, we have power," he said. "As a group, we can influence the state and assure that Lake Hopatcong is protected."
The alliance’s next step involves understanding the concerns of its 400 members, 275 of which signed up at the rally. To do this, the group is sending questionnaires to members this week.
Several local and state officials attended the event, including Jefferson Mayor Russell Felter, Mt. Arlington Mayor Arthur Ondish (who is also chairman of the Lake Hopatcong Commission), and Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo. Roxbury councilman Richard Zochak, LHC commissioner Daniel McCarthy, and state senator Steven Oroho were also in attendance. "I believe they all see the Lake Hopatcong Alliance as a positive move for the lake, and many of the LHC commissioners told me they would like to work together with the alliance to improve conditions at the lake," said Steve Gebeloff, a member of the alliance’s board of directors.
For more information about the Lake Hopatcong Alliance, visit its website at lakehopatcongalliance.com.
Lori Price, Leslie Sullivan, and Becca Fernandez contributed to this report.
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Daily Record: 300 Demonstrate in Support of Lake Hopatcong