BYRAM TOWNSHIP, NJ – The non-profit groups who keep Waterloo Village alive met elected officials from Sussex, Moriris and Warren counties in the Meeting House on Thursday, Sept. 13.
The Leagues of Municipalities from the three counties get together about once a year, Councilman George Graham of Stanhope said.
Graham arranged for tours of the village to proceed dinner, catered by Carmine’s of Netcong, and the business meeting.
Many of the visitors mentioned they had been to the village on class trips or had attended concerts under the huge tent.
Mayor Sylvia Petillo of Hopatcong, a former third grade teacher, has a different perspective than many of the visitors since she brought classes to Waterloo on trips.
“Waterloo Village is part of the Sussex County tourism package,” she said, and pointed out children loved the field trips to Waterloo because everything was hands on and the presenters stayed in character all day.
Gina Thomas, President of the Stanhope Board of Education, said, “People have forgotten where they came from; here children can see where they come from.”
She said she would report back to her board about the possibilities at Waterloo.
“The biggest treasures may be right in front of us,” she said, noting the fact the village was closed for a few years put it out of people’s minds.
School trips now view the Winakung Lenape Village run by Andrea Proctor and Bonnie Boyden.
Winakung at Waterloo is now self-sustaining, Proctor said Besides school groups, the recreated village gets families who visit on the days the Canal Society of New Jersey has the village open. With Waterloo not entirely open Proctor recommends Canal Days to her visitors.
“We had 75 different schools last year,” Proctor said. Visitors have doubled from 3,000 in 2011 to 6,000 already this year.
Teachers find Waterloo from the web site or through word of mouth, Boyden said.
The women are going to the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City in November to recruit more schools. They will have a booth and give a presentation. Some of their part-time workers will come with them.
“They are retired teachers looking forward to an opportunity to see the convention from the other side of the table.” Proctor said.
Steve Ellis of the State Division of Parks and Forestry said Winakung brought kids to Waterloo and kept it in the public eye.
He said the state is committed to Waterloo. The state has replaced the roofs of some of the buildings and will continue. Ellis said the Smith Homestead and the Iron Master’s houses are top priority.
The bridge across the Musconetcong is also a concern, Ellis said. The Friends of Waterloo are raising funds now to replace the rotted structure. Freeholder Susan Zellman, who chairs the Friends, said putting in a new bridge would cost at least $150,000. Although the original bridge was a footbridge, the new one will accommodate vehicular traffic, Zellman said.
A major fundraiser to bring in some of that money will be the Harvest Moon Festival, an art sale and auction with food, wine and ale sampling on Thursday, Oct. 11, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
The bridge was always important to Waterloo, but gains in importance since the Canal Society of New Jersey received grant funding for a cultural resources survey of the Morris County side of the village. The Society hopes to add the Mount Olive Township side of the river to the National Register of Historic Places, according to Brian Morrell, president of the Canal Society. Morrell has been working to expand the society’s reach across and down the Musconetcong to better educate the public about the significance of the canal. The canal society’s museum is in Waterloo Village.
Three more Canal Days remain this year, Richard Cramond, a member of the Canal Society who leads tours of the Smith Store, pointed out. Saturdays, Sept. 22, and Oct. 13 and 27, will see the village open.
“October is the best time to see Waterloo,” Cramond said, although the Society only has a mule to pull the modern canal boat in June.
Cramond pointed out with the exception of the Rutan cabin, which was moved from elsewhere in Sussex County, every structure at Waterloo Village is original.
This includes the Waterloo United Methodist Church, which is a functioning church, and its parsonage. Ellis complimented the membership of the church for maintaining he cemetery and flower gardens in the village.
One concern of the volunteers who work for Waterloo is a state proposal to lease out the Meeting House, comfort station, gazebo and the lot that used to hold the concert tent to a caterer.
“If it is needed to support the restoration, I wouldn’t mind,” Petillo said, but she objects to money from the lease going elsewhere.
“I’m concerned about leasing,” Zellman said. “We need a place to hold events.”
Morrell pointed out he and Proctor have spoken out against the lease. Both the Canal Society and Winakung use the Meeting House for exhibits and need it in case of rain when there are school field trips.
They also need the comfort station, especially when a couple of school buses pull in, Morrell said.
The lease idea originated with the state prior to some changes in the structure of the park commission