Dozens of local business owners descended on Bridge Marina on Thursday night for a networking event that both served as an introduction to fellow businesspeople—and, for many, as an introduction to the lake itself. “It’s always amazing to me how many people don’t know about the lake,” said Ray Fernandez, owner of Bridge Marina and organizer of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Event, known as Network on the Water. “This is a great way to introduce it to people.” Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco addressed the crowd and praised the landscape around them. “I had a choice tonight to be in Trenton or to come here,” he said. “You can see where I came.” Bucco said the lake has long meant a great deal to his father, state Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, and himself, and told the crowd that they will always fight on behalf of the lake. He added that he had just been at an event in Roxbury with Gov. Chris Christie, and when asked about the state’s commitment to Lake Hopatcong, Christie said he couldn’t mislead anyone by making any firm promises. “But [he said], ‘I can tell you that I recognize the value of Lake Hopatcong for its beauty and its economy,’” Bucco said. When the economic situation turns around, “the governor has committed to providing the resources the lake needs.” In addition to honoring Melissa Senatore as the chamber’s business woman of the year and Fernandez as the business man of the year, Bucco brought along an extra resolution for Fernandez—one that Fernandez was not expecting. “This second resolution is a little icing on the cake,” Bucco said. “To thank you for helping us bring the lake back.” Fernandez said the recognition was a surprise. “That was really a nice honor,” he said. “I didn’t expect it, but I really appreciate it.” He said the visit by Bucco and by state Sen. Steven V. Oroho shows that Lake Hopatcong continues to be a focus for local legislators. “I continue to be impressed with how much some of our state representatives continue to care about Lake Hopatcong,” he said. As for the event, which managed to stave off rainfall on a mixed-weather day, Fernandez said he was happy with the turnout and felt it was a success. His wife, Becca, whom he credits with pulling the whole thing together, agrees. “It was great to see some new faces this year, and we’re really just very happy with how everything turned out,” she said. Speaking to the entire assembled group, which included members of the Jefferson, Morris County, and Sussex County chambers of commerce, Fernandez praised the lake and its recreational opportunities. “Quite honestly,” he said, “you could spent your whole summer vacation here.”
Dave Elgart Music entertains the crowd.