Getting the stumps out

American ingenuity is used to get the stumps out of Greenwood Lake

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  • PHOTO BY ANN GENADER Mark Johnson removed this tree stump from Greenwood Lake.

  • PHOTO BY DON WEBB The stump buster has been working in Greenwood Lake all week, with the goal of removing up to 1,200 stumps in the Fox Island area.

  • A stump boat is removing tree stumps from Greenwood Lake.

The boat is fitted with a 32-inch chainsaw that hangs from a boom on the bow of the vessel. The device has the ability to cut a stump up to 12 feet below the surface of the water,


About 1,200 tree stumps remaining in Greenwood Lake – left over from the 1836 lake expansion project – have continued to be a danger to people participating in water sports on the lake. A new stump-removal approach that began on Thursday, Aug. 10, is scheduled to continue for two weeks or until money from an $84,000 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) grant to the Greenwood Lake Commission runs out. The work is being done in the vicinity of Fox Island.

The Stump BusterWhen the Greenwood Lake Commission put out a request for proposals for the stump removal project, Mark Johnson of Madison, Georgia was the only responder. He got the job.

Johnson is president of Buster’s Dredging Service. He continues his original business along with his Stump Busters Underwater Stump Removal Service.

When he runs into a problem, he studies what he can do about it. Then he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work at coming up with a solution.

The stump buster boat working at Greenwood Lake is one of a kind – but Johnson is in the process of creating a second one. He had hoped the new one – with its pontoons from Canada – would have been ready for the Greenwood Lake job. He commented at the lake work site that he continues to make the needed parts of the vessel himself and it will take about two or three months more to complete the second boat.

So metropolitanThe boat attacking the local stumps is essentially a modified party boat, or a patio boat like those often seen on Greenwood Lake. Created in 2009, it has been upgraded by the inventor as new ideas pop into his head. The boat is fitted with a 32-inch chainsaw that hangs from a boom on the bow of the vessel. The device has the ability to cut a stump up to 12 feet below the surface of the water, Johnson said.

The scene at Greenwood Lake is much different than Johnson usually has seen in less populated, quieter areas, he said. He viewed the local nine mile lake as being “metropolitan” - with more boat traffic and action than he is used to.

TV readyHaving area newspapers and television coverage for his work was something new for Johnson. He said he was surprised at the amount of news interest in his work here and said this usually doesn’t happen.

Johnson is a friendly “people person” who readily talks about the stump buster vessel he made and the second one he is working on. He is a natural for media interest.

Popular television programs on the Discovery, Smithsonian and National Geographic channels often feature stories about people with American ingenuity and know how in dealing with their day to day living.

Has he ever been contacted by the channel? Johnson said he hasn’t been sought after and didn’t want to be. He has no desire to market his stump busting machine either. Things are fine just the way they are for the happy, friendly Georgia businessman – who said he is kept very busy as it is.

Encouraged and committedThe Greenwood Lake Commission — led by New Jersey Chairman Paul Zarrillo and New York Chairman Floyd DeAngelo — continually searches for ways to make the lake safer. In 2007, the commission received a grant of $100,000 for stump removal. Work was done during a lake drawdown with about 2,000 stumps still remaining when the project was done. A similar plan did not materialize last winter because of adverse weather conditions. The commissioners feared the NJDEP grant that was given for use then would no longer be available but along came Johnson and the work began.

Zarrillo said on the first day of Johnson’s arrival some time was spent for him to become familiar with the landscape. The following day, he said, they experienced some equipment failures and special welding was needed and done by a local welder. Zarrillo reported on Saturday that to date one floating stump field about 20 feet in length was removed and 70 stumps were cut. By mid-day Monday, about 150 stumps had been removed.

The New Jersey chair said the project was running a little slow – with kinks having to be worked out – as the stump buster had never worked in an area with as many root systems as Greenwood Lake has and the stumps they worked on generally had been in deeper waters.

“We remain encouraged and committed to the project,” said Zarrillo. “We feel that it will be a big success.”

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