LAKE HOPATCONG - Business owners near New Jersey lakes are gearing up and hoping for a strong start of the tourism season this Memorial Day.
They are cleaning and repairing boats at Bridge Marina, making sure they're ready for this weekend. Owner Ray Fernandez has been preparing for the season since the end of last year, but this is crunch time.
"This is our kickoff," Fernandez says. "Our goal is to have everything 100 percent ready for Memorial Day weekend. It's the start of the season. It sets the tone for how the season is going to go."
Fernandez expects business to be up over last year and has already hired 15 employees, more than usual. The marina makes money from selling and renting boats, as well as servicing them. And most of the money comes from out-of-town tourists.
"I would say it's the No. 1 factor in the Lake Hopatcong/northern Morris County economy," he says. "The lake is a pretty big economic driver for our area."
The season will be important for businesses on the lake, since the level of the lake determines boating conditions.
In a controversial move last year, the DEP lowered the level of Lake Hopatcong by 5 feet. Some sued to stop it, but a judge ultimately allowed it to move forward.