The 60-inch drawdown of Lake Hopatcong begins in late September. By November the lake water level will be at its lowest. Shorelines and most of the shallow coves will be exposed, uncovering a treasure trove of, well, garbage.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is taking full advantage of the drawdown, coordinating a massive lake-wide cleanup effort that includes cooperation from all four municipalities, Hopatcong State Park, the Musconetcong Watershed Association, the Morris County Park Commission, and both Morris and Sussex counties. Eighteen top officials from each town and group attended an organizational meeting held recently at the Foundation’s headquarters in Nolan’s Point.
The cleanup will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9, from 8 am until noon. The event is rain or shine. In the event of a major weather incident (hurricane or blizzard) the cleanup will be postponed until the following Saturday at the same time.
Currently the Foundation is recruiting volunteers to be team leaders or team members with each team consisting of five to 10 members. With at least 30 lakefront access points located around the lake, the Foundation is planning to recruit close to 300 volunteers to help in the cleanup effort. The Foundation is asking lakefront property owners to form teams and is encouraging schools, civic groups, businesses, and any other organization to participate.
According to Donna Macalle-Holly, coordinator and grants administrator with the Foundation, the cooperation from local and county officials is crucial to the success of the effort.
“The communities around the lake know that keeping the lake clean is important,” said Macalle-Holly. “That’s why community partners all stepped up and sent key decision makers to the cleanup planning meeting.”
The Departments of Public Works from all four municipalities (Jefferson Township,
Mount Arlington, Roxbury, and Hopatcong) have agreed to provide Dumpsters specifically for disposal of lake debris only. Access to these Dumpsters is limited and locations will be posted on the Foundation’s website (www.lakehopatcongfoundation.org) beginning in November. Tires and vegetative waste will not be accepted. The cleanup effort is targeting he lake bottom and shorelines and does not include any street or property debris. Also, if debris is found stuck in the muck of the lake, the municipal DPW’s have agreed to send their workers to remove whatever is accessible. If an object is found in stuck in the muck a form needs to be completed and sent to the Foundation, which will distribute the forms to the appropriate municipality. This form can be filled out as soon as debris is spotted. Forms can be found on the Foundation website, under Initiatives/Fall Lake Cleanup.
Volunteers will be provided with trash bags—black bags for garbage and clear bags for recyclables—and gloves. All are encouraged to wear muck boots and work clothes. To be clear, the bottom of the lake can be a muddy mess. And, it can be dangerous.
At a recent meeting of local officials, Rick Blood, director of Public Works in Roxbury, recounted an incident that occurred during the last drawdown five years ago.
While inspecting a drainage outlet that created a sandbar just offshore near Shore Hills Beach Club, Blood stepped from the sandbar onto what he thought was more sand but covered with leaves. He was mistaken. Very slowly but deliberately he sank into the muck to just under his armpits. A backhoe helped pull him from the muck.
While volunteers are needed for the cleanup and are urged to stay on the perimeter of the lake, officials are in agreement that volunteers must be educated on the dangers of entering the lake during the drawdown. The suggestion was made that groups have a throw line and a grappling hook. It was suggested the hook can also be used to pull debris from hard to reach places.
“We need to show the governor and Trenton that we all care about Lake Hopatcong. Volunteer. Help clean the lake. Send a message,” said Macalle-Holly.