As boats prepare to launch on Lake Hopatcong this summer season, a new nonprofit is also launching on behalf of New Jersey’s largest lake. In an effort to ensure Lake Hopatcong is properly maintained and protected, the Lake Hopatcong Foundation has been established, both to undertake initiatives for the lake and to support projects from other lake-based groups.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: This story is about an organization formed by the owner of Camp Six, Inc., which also owns this publication, and quotes editor Jessica Kitchin Murphy, who is transitioning from Lake Hopatcong News & Reviews to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.)
“The lake is an orphan, bordered by four municipalities but not belonging to any one of them, and it’s not top-of-mind to the state either,” said Béla Szigethy, who is the chairman of the Foundation’s board, and its primary benefactor thus far. “Many individuals, businesses and organizations depend on the lake and each has its own specific focus, which is great. But we felt there was a need for an organization to fill the gaps between these various constituencies, to make sure that the ‘orphan’ is cared for.”
The Foundation’s mission is “to improve Lake Hopatcong for everyone, now and in the years to come.” With that in mind, the board is moving forward with projects that range from better informing boaters about wake restrictions and severe weather warnings to helping maintain regular water-quality testing on the lake.
“There’s an environmental component to this, but also a practical one,” said Jessica Kitchin Murphy, who is serving as the Foundation’s founding president. “Obviously the lake is a natural resource, and so we will be looking at it from a conservation standpoint. But at the same time, we hope to make the entire Lake Hopatcong experience—boating, fishing, swimming, or just lakefront living—to be better for everybody. So we’ll look at ways of improving quality of life and building a sense of lake community. Fortunately, the environmental and practical objectives often dovetail with each other.”
Szigethy, who has ties to the lake going back to his youth, said he is mindful of the Native American tradition of looking ahead seven generations when making decisions, and places an emphasis on making sure the lake remains healthy for many decades ahead, while also taking into account the needs of those who use and enjoy it today. “The lake is a special place, magical in some ways,” he said. “We’d like to make sure that our great-great-grandchildren get to enjoy it, too. Wouldn’t it be great if each generation could leave the lake even better than when they ‘inherited’ it?”
Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum president Marty Kane is one of the founding board members. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together folks that love the lake into a non-political group to advance projects and goals that will benefit the lake community,” Kane said. “The lake remains an amazing asset and this Foundation is dedicated to maintaining our ‘Jewel of the Mountains’ for the generations who will follow us.”
The Foundation is not intended to replace any existing organization; rather, it aims to collaborate with and work alongside groups, such as the Lake Hopatcong Commission, Knee Deep Club, and Lake Hopatcong Alliance. “In the early years of the Foundation’s life I think it could supplement the budgets of other organizations working on existing projects more than tackling new projects,” Szigethy said. “Let’s help those who have already put a lot of thought and initiative into improving the lake.”
Szigethy addressed the issue of state funding for the lake, which has been in political limbo for several years now, and was part of the impetus for launching the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. “While it would be great if the lake were totally cared for by its owner, the State of New Jersey, the fact is that the state’s funds are limited. The Foundation can help carry out some of the many good projects that the state or the Lake Hopatcong Commission would be doing if they had the money.”
The offices of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation will be located in the lakefront office building alongside the Lake Hopatcong Golf Club miniature golf course, at 37 Nolan’s Point Park Road in Lake Hopatcong. The Foundation’s website, LakeHopatcongFoundation.org, contains information about the organization as well as an opportunity to donate.
The Foundation incorporated in March as a New Jersey not-for-profit corporation and the application for a 501(c)(3) designation is pending before the IRS. The board, which includes Szigethy, Murphy, Kane, and Thomas D. Flinn, plans to begin its initiatives and public outreach this spring and summer.
“The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is a great way for people to give back to Lake Hopatcong,” Szigethy said. “It doesn’t matter how much or how little. In turn, the Foundation will provide money to projects to make the lake better for all the people who enjoy it.”