Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation
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Lake Preservation Recognition Celebration: ERNIE HOFER



The Fran Smith Award was created by the Foundation as a tribute to the memory of Lake Mohawk Country Club’s long-time General Manager, the late Fran Smith. Fran was recognized nationally and regionally for her visionary leadership. The Foundation’s highest honor was created in her memory to recognize and honor extraordinary volunteer leadership in the realm of the protection of our lakes and water resources over multiple years of service.

This year the Foundation honors Ernie Hofer as its fourth Awardee.  Ernie has brought his unique talents and effective blend of sustained volunteer and in-depth professional perspective to the focus of improving the ecology of our lakes and the Wallkill River Watershed, especially Lake Mohawk. His impact has been broad across the region and state leading NJCOLA, the NJ Coalition of Lake Associations, a mantle once held by Fran Smith.

As a professional chemical engineer by practice specializing in water quality-related issues, Ernie recognized the difficulties facing Lake Mohawk including proposed reclassification of the lake to Category One (C1) (a high quality water resource) and the investigation of possible lake bed pollution. The newly formed Lake Committee was tasked with determining the causes of the problems and best solutions to restore lake water quality.  Fran invited Ernie to join the Club’s Lake Committee that was working with Dr. Steve Sousa, a visionary lake ecology scientist who had just formed his own consulting firm with LMCC as his first client. Many trips to Trenton were required to achieve acceptance / approval of LMCC’s proposals. Ernie recalls how impressed he was with Fran Smith – her vision and willingness to take calculated risks and experiment with possible solutions, while at the same time confronting the financial challenges that face associations like LMCC with a man-made lake as their central asset. 

The Lake Committee proceeded in developing testing, analysis and then action programs to restore the quality of the main lake waters. The work also addressed the other lakes in the reservation and shared results with other lake associations in NJ and beyond. Ernie went on to Chair the Lake Committee, working with consultants and volunteers during some of its most active work including the initial laying down of the whole lake alum blanket, annual alum applications, and the ongoing alum distributions system.  These steps have led to major improvements in water quality, and afforded greater effectiveness in weed control, septic management, catch basins, and sediment removal. Issues evolved from a solitary focus on phosphorous in the 90s, to concerns about the manner in which nitrogen levels were also affecting lake water quality, to current priorities centering around sediment control prompted by increased intensity of rainstorms and erosion of streams and inlets into our lakes that affect navigation and lake ecology.

Fran Smith, Ernie and many other volunteers, with the support of LMCC Trustees, went on to help develop and lead NJCOLA, growing it from a membership of four lake communities to a membership of now more than 70 associations.  Ernie now serves as president of NJCOLA among his other community volunteer activities. Continuing his volunteer service to his lake community, Ernie was elected as a LMCC trustee over several terms and served as Club President over two terms.  The trustees asked him to serve as Interim General Manager following Fran Smith’s retirement.

When the Lake Mohawk Preservation Foundation was formed as an all volunteer non- profit charitable organization,  Ernie was a founding trustee and served for a number of years as the Foundation’s volunteer Science Advisor, bringing his engineering and management training and expertise, his Lake Committee and Trustee experience, and the insight of his professional network to help shape the research and education program and priorities of the Foundation.

Congratulations to Ernie Hofer, the recipient of the Foundation’s 2019 Fran Smith Award for sustained volunteer leadership in lake preservation.

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