The history of Hopatcong’s open space efforts started on Nov. 2, 1999. Hopatcong dedicated a portion of its revenue toward the preservation of open space. A referendum was authorized for the establishment of the municipal Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund. It earmarked our local property taxes for this trust fund. This money is used exclusively for the purchase of property, easements, and/or recreational facilities within the borough for the purpose of acquiring and preserving land for open space and recreation. From the fund’s inception in 2000 through September 2010, the taxpayer of Hopatcong paid out $712,068 on this open space tax levy, plus $38,832 in interest and included (indirect tax) grants from Sussex County, to enable a distribution of over $1,550,000.
So what lands and properties did Hopatcong purchase with this tax levy fund of $1,550,000? The borough prepared a 2011 Update which they have stated was to provide its residents with documentation of the program to date including a clear action plan to move forward into the future. It was entitled “OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION PLAN UPDATE – 2011 for Borough of Hopatcong County of Sussex”. Did you get your copy of this plan? Unfortunately, not every taxpayer got this copyrighted, all rights reserved publication. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form without prior consent is prohibited. However, here is a hint on where you can get your own copy http://www.hopatcong.org/Minutes/OSRPUpdate.pdf
Most of you will think this documentation is a dull read that would put anyone to sleep. On the contrary, I found this to be one of the most intriguing documents our local government has ever published. It provides a listing of all the properties the mayor and Open Space/Recreation Council purchased as new non-tax ratable properties on our behalf. I found some of what they deemed properties “to create recreational opportunities for both natural resource-based and facility-based recreation,” rather absurd. We purchased .19 acres from one of our council members on 23 Cove Road. What recreational benefit was adding this parcel of land as tax exempt property? This list is gratuitously peppered with recognizable sellers of small parceled land we bought to add to the ranks of land that could never be developed. How many influential former lot owners now have a forever tax free dumping space for their grass clippings and were also given a monetary incentive of appreciation by our town for making it public?
Obtaining a copy of this plan also serves another purpose. It provides maps
to all these recreational properties. There are properties that you had NO IDEA is public property for you to trespass on. You have become a VIP member through your Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund membership. Too bad you did not get the details of your membership package mailed to your home. Think of the “OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION PLAN UPDATE – 2011” as your Hopatcong Tourism Guide Book for the asking. In this package you we will find public access to beaches and lake front vistas, too. We are all trying to pinch our pennies and our family recreation budget has taken a hit. Now is the time to take advantage of your recreational property investment that the mayor and council have been planning for you and your family this summer. It is time to download this plan which includes some great maps of areas that you have the right to occupy.
If you find a “No Trespassing” sign on your open space property just remember the words to Woody Guthrie’s famous “This Land is Your Land” song
“As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said 'No Trespassing.'
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.”
Please give your feedback on your visits to any of these properties with your recreational rating and review. Maybe we can start our own Hopatcong Tourism blog. I promise that when I find the Hopatcong’s Economical Development Plan I will share the link to this with you.