ROXBURY, NJ – There are plenty of kids living in Roxbury who’ve never been on Lake Hopatcong, says lake buff Marty Kane. He’s even confident many don’t realize their town borders the big lake.
That’s one of the reasons Kane, chairman of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation Board of Trustees, is bubbling with excitement about the upcoming launch of the foundation’s “floating classroom.”
Projected to hit the water in May, the specially equipped pontoon boat will take school children out onto Lake Hopatcong where they will learn about lake biology, geology, history and more. The trips will be free for students living in one of the four municipalities bordering the lake, including Roxbury, Kane said.
He said 16 school trips for fourth-graders are planned for the first year, but that number will likely increase in subsequent years. Students living in towns that don't border the lake might, in the future, be offered trips for a small fee, Kane added.
“We’re starting out slow because we don’t want to overdo it as we’re getting the kinks out,” said Kane, a lawyer and Lake Hopatcong history aficionado.
The people doing the teaching during the trips will be trained volunteers, mainly former educators who are now retired, according to Kane. He stressed that education, not sightseeing, will be the goal.
Get Their Hands Wet
“It’s not a tour,” Kane said. “It’s not the Miss Lotta (commercial tour boat). They will go into the lake and do water sampling and other really hands-on work. It will mostly be science but there will also be some history elements to it and some geography.”
The 40-foot boat is being built by Sightseer Marine of Hudson, Florida. A similar floating classroom is operating successfully on Lake George in New York.
Funding for the boat was provided in part by grants from the USA TODAY Network’s “A Community Thrives” program and the James P. Verhalen Family Foundation, according to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.
“This is a milestone project for the foundation and we are so excited to bring this educational experience to Lake Hopatcong for students, residents and visitors to enjoy,” said the foundation in announcing the selection of Sightseer Marine in November. “The foundation plans to host 1,000 fourth grade students on the floating classroom in our first year and it will be open to the public one day per week in July and August. The fee structure is being established.”
The ability of the floating classroom to introduce the lake to Roxbury kids is something Kane finds particularly intriguing. “It’s amazing what percentage of kids growing up in Roxbury have never been on Lake Hopatcong,” he said. “If you live in Succasunna, what are the chances you’ve been on Lake Hopatcong?
Kane said the floating classroom will be a “legacy type project,” one that might continue for many decades, continuing to have a big impact on young people from the area. “This will make such a difference in how they look at the lake, consider different careers and take pride in their own town,” he said.