With two days left of a large-scale search of the lake for the water chestnut, Tim Clancy decided to go back and revisit the site of the only reported sighting of the invasive plant species. Between morning and afternoon Knee Deep Club events in Mt. Arlington, Clancy and fellow club member Jim Salerno returned to the west shore of Landing—and in no time collected 14 more rosettes.
“We must have missed them the first time,” Clancy said. “But we still caught them early enough, before they go to seed.”
Clancy estimates that they saved another 5,000 seeds from being shed into the Landing basin—meaning in all, up to 15,000 seeds were not dropped this year because of the effort of the Water Scouts to find and identify the invasive species. “Instead of us finding it, it would have found us,” Clancy said.
At the end of a ten-day window in which 36 teams of Water Scouts—paddlers from a variety of groups around the lake who wear bright yellow hats—searched their designated zones for any sign of the water chestnut, the Landing discovery was the only positive sighting of the species on the lake. Every other zone (with the exception of one unfinished search near Raccoon Island) came back with a report of “all clear.”
Several of those teams who were tasked with covering the Woodport section of the lake launched early on Saturday morning to conduct their surveys. The group—made up of members of the Garden State Yacht Club—was led by the club’s commodore, Howard Mandelbaum, who carefully instructed eight fellow Water Scouts how to identify the species and properly mark and report any sightings.
“It’s so sad what can happen if we don’t make this effort,” said Matthew Mandelbaum, Howard’s son who regularly visits from New York with his family and joined the volunteers on Saturday.
Sharon Gruber agreed. “We’re all very into saving our lake,” she said, adding that the volunteers were happy to rise to the challenge.
Fortunately, no one in the group needed to use his or her pink streamers to mark any water chestnut sightings—a particular relief for Clancy and the Knee Deep Club, since Woodport (along with Crescent Cove and Landing) was considered a “hot zone.” The water chestnut is most likely to grow in relatively shallow areas with minimal turbulence, and so the area around Lify Island, for example, would be a prime location for the plant to appear and thrive. The fact that it draws migratory birds, which are common carriers of the barb-like seeds, makes it all the more likely for a sighting.
But so far, the only water chestnuts confirmed on the lake were found in Landing—and what was found has been removed. “We will continue to monitor this site on a weekly basis,” Clancy said. “Jim [Salerno] and I discussed coordinating a special large Water Scout team to re-inspect the entire channel, from the State Park all the way to Lake’s End Marina, possibly in mid-July. This is the hot zone and I think the entire channel could stand another once over.”
How the plant made its way into Landing is unknown, but seeds could have been carried by a goose or by a launched boat. Downstream in Lake Musconetcong, the species has taken over large parts of the lake, and Clancy said it was probably only a matter of time before it made its way to Hopatcong. The discovery, therefore, wasn’t a surprise so much as an affirmation that the Water Scout effort was worthwhile.
“This extraordinary lake-wide, community-based inspection was well worth the effort,” he said. “We are already planning more public awareness projects and thinking about next year’s water scout survey.”
To read more stories about the Water Chestnut, click on the links below:
A group of Water Scouts prepares to search Woodport on Saturday.
Water chestnut rosettes are found amid lily pads in Landing Channel.
Clancy gathers up the 14 water chestnuts pulled from Landing on Saturday, one week after several dozen were pulled from the same location.