Tim Clancy has been active on Lake Hopatcong for years, serving as president of the Knee Deep Club from 1995 to 1998 and leading a variety of projects to improve the lake’s aquatic environment and fishery, including the Save the Lake 2000 campaign. But nothing may be as big as the project he’s taken on this year: preemptively tackling the water chestnut.
The invasive species threatens to choke the shallower, less turbulent parts of the lake—and Clancy threatens to stop it in its tracks. “We want to seek this thing out,” he says, “but we also want knowledge about it to become a part of the broader lake consciousness.”
Until the weekend, no water chestnuts were known to be in Lake Hopatcong, though they have taken over parts of Lake Musconetcong and other bodies of water in the region. The Water Scouts, a group of volunteer paddlers brought together by Clancy and the Knee Deep Club, began a ten-day search for the plant on Friday, and by Saturday morning, a scattering of the species was identified in Landing. Clancy called it a bad news/good news situation, saying it’s unfortunate that the plant has made its way to Hopatcong’s shores, but also that the proactive efforts have paid off. “It’s not at the stage where it’s unmanageable,” he says. “This is absolutely manageable, and that was the goal of this project. So this really is good news.”
The effort has kept him busy, and at a time when he thought he would become an “elder statesman.” “I really thought I was retired from being really active,” he sayas. “But Donna [Macalle-Holly, administrator of the Lake Hopatcong Commission] introduced me to this problem, and I did some research and had to jump in.”
Along with the Knee Deep Club, Clancy cobbled together a group that included the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club Paddlers, the Antique and Classic Boat Society, the Garden State Yacht Club, homeowners associeations, and even folks who lived upstream, to start seeking out the water chestnut before it had a chance to overtake any parts of the lake. “It was a kind of build-then-design thing, rather than a design-then-build, because we wanted to get moving quickly,” he says. “But the lake network really was working.”
Clancy, 56, grew up in Union County, but visited Lake Hopatcong regularly and moved here with his wife, Karen, in 1990. He was always into fishing, so he soon joined the Knee Deep Club, and a few years later signed on as president, leading the club as its membership doubled from about 600 to 1,200 members. He and Karen have been married for 31 years, and in addition to enjoying their lakefront home across from Raccoon Island in Jefferson, the two own a 1947 22-foot sportsman, an antique boat known as Piggy Bank. Clancy also collects antiques, including fishing lures that were developed on Lake Hopatcong, and other Hopatcong-linked memorabilia, from old photographs of the lake to a glass sign that once hung at Nolan’s Point Amusement Park. “I view antiques as something you don’t own, you’re just a temporary caretaker, maintaining them for the next generation,” he says.
One item he’s particularly devoted to maintaining is his boat house, which he has restored to look almost exactly as it did decades ago, when Bud Abbott was known to relax upstairs with the owner.
But much of his time is dedicated to the lake that makes all of those other passions possible. “I’m asked why I bother with these efforts,” he says. “I may not have children of my own, but I got to enjoy this lake as a child. And I hope your child and grandchild get to do that, too. I just feel it’s important to recognize that I got to enjoy this place, and future generations deserve that opportunity, too.”
The usual questions:
What are your favorite lake destinations?
"Those would be fishing spots, which I can’t share. So I guess I’ll go with a time of year: the late fall. I like being the last boat on the lake, taking those late-season boat rides when it’s quiet and there’s just this cool, beautiful atmosphere. It’s glorious."
What is your first memory on Lake Hopatcong?
"Fishing off my cousin’s dock at Point Pleasant. I was eight years old, and saw my first wooden boat, and thought that was the only one like it. I didn’t realize this lake was full of them."
Describe the perfect summer day on the lake.
"There is none. I like spring and autumn. Maybe when it’s quiet late in the evening, or when it’s rainy."