liberty township
 
liberty ariel view  

Mountain Lake Community Association

The Mountain Lake Community Association and Watershed Advisory Group (MLCA & WAG) is the oldest and largest not for profit environmental organization in Warren County.  Next year it will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Founded in 1967, the group now sustains an annual membership of over 130.

  • Vision statement: Clean, safe water, a healthy watershed, and an educated citizenry
  •  Mission Statement: To promote the conservation, preservation, and improvement of the Mountain Lake Watershed and to raise the awareness of all those who experience it so they share in the responsibility of helping sustain it. 

Membership dues are thirty dollars annually, however fifty percent of members contribute in excess of that amount with lifetime members giving $1,000. 


BACKGROUND:

The 3,600 acre Mountain Lake Watershed lies entirely in Liberty Township.  It includes Warren County’s largest (122 acres), natural, glacial lake, Mountain Lake.  The organization literally grew up around the lake with local property owners forming the backbone of the group.  Around 2000, as the watershed movement was beginning to take hold, By Laws were rewritten to reflect that greater perspective.  The MLCA was incorporated in 1967, received IRS non profit status in 2004.  The group maintains affiliations with the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS), New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations (NJ COLA), Paulinskill-Pequest Watershed Association and The Ridge and Valley Conservancy.


CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES:

  • Riparian buffer planting on NJ Natural Lands Trust property at the Mountain Lake Bog with the NJ Youth Corp, Liberty Township Environmental Commission (LTEC), and the North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development Council
  • Partnered with the LTEC to secure a Clean Water Act 319h grant to install storm drain filters; association members sampled storm water prior to installation and will continue after installation is completed
  • Volunteer Water Monitoring Project – Turbidity and temperature profiles for seven years; annual participant in the Great North American Secchi Dip In;  Warren County Environmental Commission Grant funding a dissolved oxygen meter to supplement data used to monitor water quality and general lake health
  • New Jersey Clean Communities Program - over 1600 hours collecting and disposing 12,000 gallons of roadside litter
  • Conducted avian surveys that enabled Mountain Lake to be included in Jenny Jump State Park’s designation as a National Audubon Society Important Bird and Birding Area
  • Aquatic weed control: Partner with Jenny Jump in mechanical weed harvesting of invasive aquatic weeds to decrease the use of chemical herbicides; regular use of hand weed cutting tools 

PUBLIC EDUCATION:

  • Quarterly newsletter to over 600 families 
  • Annual meeting featuring presentations on environmental issues
  • Brochures that highlight sound environmental practices in partnership with LTEC.
  • Outdoor signage: two community outdoor bulletin boards to publicize environmental information; watershed awareness signs; pet waste disposal signs; and a Welcome to Mountain Lake sign
  • Webpage accessible via the municipal website 

COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP:

  • Warren County Environmental Commission Grant to help fund the Mountain Lake Stormwater Runoff study; twenty members trained to collect  samples for analysis to determine the extent of external loads of non point source pollutants
  • Co-sponsor of a fall fund-raising cancer walk at the lake that represents the beautiful, natural setting of the watershed
  • Promoted municipal ordinances on pet waste, limiting the use of phosphorus fertilizer, and feeding waterfowl
  • Partnered with the LTEC in securing grants to conduct numerous studies on the lake including water quality, a bathymetric map, stormwater, watershed analysis, and septic leachate analysis
  • Partnerships with various other organizations with similar environmental goals
  • Regular attendance at township committee and LTEC meetings to advocate for protection of critical natural resources
  • Active participants in Watershed Management Area #1 (Upper Delaware) during the state watershed initiative under NJ DEP
  • Promoted and supported Liberty Township’s Open Space investment in lake front property to guarantee public access to the lake and insure the conservation of natural resources

OTHER INFORMATION:

Two initiatives this year include establishing an annual award in honor of a founding member, Ruth Ballou, to be given to an individual who helps the association fulfill it’s vision and mission and the establishment of a $100 scholarship grant to a graduating senior at a local high school who will major in environmental studies or a related field and who has made significant contributions to serving the environment.  In addition, the MLCA & WAG will pursue grant funding to attract a paid, part-time Executive Director, to assist the organization in building membership capacity.

The environmental accomplishments of this 40 year old, all volunteer organization are certainly noteworthy.  Members of the Watershed Advisory Board have devoted countless hours to getting themselves educated via formal courses, workshops, networking, and partnerships and then have consistently shared this knowledge through a well written quarterly newsletter and participation in community events.  You might say that they consistently “spread the environmental word” better than anyone.  They have worked diligently to build organizational capacity in the last ten years (membership grew from a historic low of 52 families to a high of 191).  The vision and leadership they have brought to the community is admirable, and their dedication and persistence unrivaled in Warren County.  They have done more, longer, to promote environmental stewardship in a small, rural New Jersey community than most thought possible.