In 2017, a few Moorestown residents decided it would be a great service to our community to be the “stewards” of Strawbridge Lake. Amy and George Gravenstine, along with Chet Dawson, called upon other like-minded residents to join them in cleaning-up the lake’s edge. With guidance from the township, they began with a few sections of the lake and soon realized it was a much larger, daunting and dangerous task than they realized. It was then that George had the idea to create an all-volunteer, non-profit group to raise funds and hire a professional landscape company for the clean-up. In January of 2018, the Strawbridge Lake Beautification Committee was born.
Their mission was to restore Strawbridge Lake to the beautiful town treasure it once was. They would focus on making improvements for recreational use and would accomplish this through community involvement, drawing more residents to the lake, township support, and state and county grants. With all in agreement, they officially formed as a 501 (c) non-profit organization and quickly got to work. Since 2018, the SLBC has worked tirelessly on their mission, beginning with holding an annual event that would bring attention to their mission and gain interest and support of Strawbridge Lake.
The first project for the SLBC was what is now an annual lake edge clean-up, which has taken place each winter since 2019 at a cost of about $6,600.00, The cleanup involves the removal of over-grown weeds and brush on the Haines Drive side of the lake so that visitors can easily access and enjoy the lake. After realizing a professional landscape company was needed for the lake edge clean-up, the SLBC held its 1st Annual Paddle Board & Kayak Race & Family Festival in May of 2018 to fund the project, netting about $5000, and then held a second fundraiser in December through social media and word-of-mouth. Enough money was raised to fund the first lake edge clean-up, performed in the winter of 2019. In 2018 the group also created its website to keep all informed about what the SLBC is doing as well as offering a place a place to register for the annual event and make individual donations.
By 2019, interest and momentum grew for the Annual Paddle Board & Kayak Race and Family Festival. The 2nd Annual event was held the second Saturday of June (which is when it is now always held) and netted $10,000. Over 40 racers entered and competed. At the Family Festival, a beer garden was added through a partnership with the Moorestown Breakfast Rotary. Several bands also performed and there was an impressive Silent Auction table. The SLBC also applied for grants and created a professional logo which was designed and donated by Moorestown resident Matt Henneke.
The year started with high hopes and plans were underway for the Annual Moorestown Paddle Board & Kayak & Family Festival until Covid 19 hit and the Annual event was cancelled due to the pandemic. However, much was still accomplished at the Lake that year! Although the Annual event had been cancelled, many of the generous sponsors who had already signed-on donated their sponsorships regardless. The SLBC was extremely grateful for this. It allowed for the funding of the annual lake edge clean-up once again. That summer and through grant funding, the township installed a beautiful walking path along the lake between Pleasant Valley Avenue and Kings Highway. Moorestown Township funded many other projects in 2020: the dredging of the Children’s Pond and the lower basin of the lake as well as the brush and weed clean-up of the area by the playful bear statues. The gazebo was also restored and painted, and new playground equipment was installed. The signage at the lake was power washed by Garden State Pressure Washing, who generously donated their services. A Beech tree was planted in honor of Dr. Curtis, funded by Curtis Auxiliary to Virtua Hospital. Other SLBC fundraisers included Facebook’s Giving Tuesday, Boscov’s Family Friends, and selling Pura Vida bracelets. The lake edge clean-up was completed in March and more grants were applied for.
In 2021 the group continued to gain momentum in support and interest, thus seeing the need for an Executive Board. Members of the first Board were George and Amy Gravenstine, Doug Maute, Dave Schill, and Lisa Petriello. Other residents also joined the group as volunteers by donating their time and talents to the SLBC’s mission: Michael Sloan who revamped the website, Jennifer Baxter who helped with publicity, Matthew Henneke who created graphics for the non-profit and the event, Jim Godfrey who provided on the water race support at the event, Kathy Drachowski who was the event photographer and Dorothy Mansdoerfer who led the Silent Auction effort for the Annual Event. The 3rd Annual Moorestown Paddle Board & Kayak Race & Family Festival was bigger and better than ever, netting approximately 26,000 in donations and sponsorships. Over 70 racers participated, and the momentum of this event was evident! The Family Festival grew to include food trucks and once again had live music, wine, and beer garden as well as a great Silent Auction. Many volunteers were needed, and they helped throughout the day working the races and Family Festival to ensure everything ran smoothly. It was a true community effort. Money raised enabled the annual lake edge clean-up to commence and allowed for the biggest improvement the SLBC had funded thus far – the installation of the first permanent floating dock, installed at Haines Drive near Kings Highway at a cost of $12,495.00. For the first time visitors now had easy access to the lake for their watercraft. The SLBC also secured a $10,000 grant through The New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
Another successful year for the SLBC saw the 4th Annual Moorestown Paddle Board & Kayak Race & Family Festival held June 11th netting approximately $16,000. The Race was taken to the next level by providing professional timing, making for a more competitive and professional experience for racers. Once again, the Family Festival featured a Silent Auction and festival goers enjoyed food trucks, wine and beer garden and live music. The SLBC was very thankful for the generous sponsors who once again supported the event. Money raised in 2022 not only allowed for the funding of the annual lake edge clean-up, but also funded the installation of a 2nd permanent dock which was installed in September 2022, at a cost of $15,950.00. This dock is located on Haines Dr close to Pleasant Valley Avenue and is handicapped accessible, making it possible for everyone to enjoy easy access to Strawbridge Lake.
The SLBC now has a 7-member Board of Directors comprised of Moorestown residents dedicated to carrying out the non-profit’s mission: Amy & George Gravenstine, Lisa Petriello, Doug Maute, Chet Dawson, Lenny Wagner and Jennifer Baxter. The SLBC looks forward to the 5th Annual Moorestown Paddle Board & Kayak Race & Family Festival to be held Saturday, June 10, 2023. It is our hope that the wonderful momentum our organization has experienced thus far will continue to grow within the residential and business communities. It is the support of these communities that have made many improvements at Strawbridge Lake possible. It is our township gem that people from all over the tri-county region come to enjoy year-round – from fishing to boating to kayaking and paddling, exercising, conversing with nature -- and all things in between! We hope to continue our mission for many years to come so that future generations will always have Strawbridge Lake to enrich their lives and enjoy.