It didn’t start out well, but those who run businesses around Lake Hopatcong say they survived the summer season and are hopeful that things will look up in the future.
“It’s definitely been one of our worst years ever,” said Ron Sorensen, who owns Lake Hopatcong Marine, San Bar Marina, and Woodport Marina. “The combination of the economy and what the state did to us [with the low water], we got hit with two blows at one time. I have three marinas, and I did better when I owned one marina than I did this year, that’s how bad it was. But that’s what you’ve got to deal with, and you can’t have great years every time.”
For the first couple months of the season, Lake Hopatcong’s water level was upwards of two feet below normal levels, leaving marinas and other lakeside businesses unable to launch or dock boats. Thirteen of those businesses banded together to sue the state, alleging mismanagement of the dam that allowed too much water to escape the lake basin. A rainy June restored the lake to the dam level by June 22, but much of the damage was done, and the lawsuit still lingers in the courts.
Ed Alonge, at Barnes Bros. Marina, said things worked out after the rough start, in part because his marina is situated in deeper water, which wasn’t as affected by the lake level. “Considering how it started, we ended up in OK shape,” Alonge said. “We’re just hoping it stays nice for awhile still, so we can recoup some of our early-season losses.”
Cliff Beebe of Beebe Marina has not been as fortunate, and said he had taken in only a small fraction of his summer earnings. His marina is located in shallow water north of Brady Bridge, so many of his regular customers went elsewhere during the early part of the season. “I’m in real trouble,” he said. “This is just about as bad as it gets for me. Hopefully things will turn around.”
At Kabob’s, employees report improved summer business as the season continued. “And we’ve still got plenty of boating season,” said a daytime manager on behalf of owner Robert Winegar. “It all depends on the weather, and we have no control over that.”
Sorensen said not to close the book on this season yet. “The best part of the boating season is the next two months, with the leaves changing, and the lake wide open,” he said. “So we can keep our hopes up.”