Posted Thursday, October 29th, 2015

Landscape and Horticultural Technology students at County College of Morris are taking what they are learning in the classroom to help transform the grounds of one of the county’s treasured historic sites as a result of a partnership with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

County College of Morris Students to Play Key Role in Lake Hopatcong Train Station Restoration
Lake Hopatcong Train Station

Through the partnership, students enrolled in CCM’s Landscape Design and Planning classes will design and implement a sustainable landscape for the 104-year-old Lake Hopatcong train station in the Landing section of Roxbury.

The train station, once a bustling center of activity when Lake Hopatcong was a resort community, was purchased late last year by the foundation. It plans to restore the structure and establish the grounds as an educational landscape filled with native and sustainable plants. 

When completed, the building will serve as the foundation’s offices and as a cultural and educational center.

“The foundation’s mission is very similar to our approach, in that they want to use native plants, eliminate invasive species and reduce the need for pesticides,” said Brian Oleksak, Foundation chairman and a CCM professor. A local Eagle Scout, Nick Karpiak, also will be installing a rain garden as part of the project.

County College of Morris Students to Play Key Role in Lake Hopatcong Train Station Restoration
Historic Photos of the Train Station

Donna Macalle-Holly, foundation grants and program coordinator, explained that the goal is for the landscape to serve as a resource for visitors to gain ideas about what to plant in their own gardens to make them more sustainable.

The project will be conducted in phases over three to four years as the building is renovated. In the first phase, CCM students, working with CCM Professor Susan Cohan, will create a design plan for the space. That is expected to be completed by the end of the fall semester. 

In August, the Morris County Board of Freeholders awarded a $192,500 grant to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation towards the purchase of the century-old Lake Hopatcong train station. The funding came through a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

County College of Morris Students to Play Key Role in Lake Hopatcong Train Station Restoration
Dave Scapicchio

 “Efforts like these help preserve the history of our county for future generations … helping them understand the past and, hopefully, using that knowledge to make our county a better place in the future,’’ said Freeholder Dave Scapicchio, who presented the check to the foundation at an August ceremony.

This 1911 train station was built as part of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad … and the Lackawanna Cutoff project. It was unique in New Jersey because three forms of transportation were directly accessible from the station. 

Rail passengers could disembark at this station and either board the Lake Hopatcong Steamboat Company boats for passage through the Morris Canal into Lake Hopatcong or board the Morris County Traction Company trolley directly to Bertrand Island Park.

Due to this unique distinction in transportation history, the Lake Hopatcong Station has been determined to be individually eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and it also is part of the Old Main Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Historic District.

The Lake Hopatcong Station is architecturally similar to its sister station in Mountain Lakes. Both stations used rubble stone and detailing of concrete and glazed terra cotta.

 Next spring, the students, with the help of volunteers, will begin planting the first section of the landscape. Additional CCM students will help over the next several years to complete the project.

To launch the first phase, Cohan and students Brian Ensminger, of Landing, Stacy Webb, of Pompton Plains, and Nisha Khanna, of Edison, recently gathered at the site with foundation leaders and volunteers to review ideas.

County College of Morris Students to Play Key Role in Lake Hopatcong Train Station Restoration
CCM Students Stacy Webb, Nisha Khanna, and Brian Ensminger

“This is a good way to put to use the skills we are learning,” said Ensminger. “I live down the street and am looking forward to watching this take place.”

CCM was approached to take part in the project by Martin Kane, chair of the foundation’s Board of Trustees.

“We heard about how enthusiastic the students are and felt it was a perfect partnership between a nonprofit and CCM,” said Kane. “It’s going to give students a perfect opportunity to succeed.”

Photo credit: Kathleen Brunet Eagan