About Island Waters Institute

Our Policies


The Island Waters Institute does not sell, exchange, or release website visitor’s names, postal addresses, e-mail addresses, or other individually identifying information to parties outside of the Institute, except to third party contractors performing services, to the extent necessary to comply with applicable laws or valid legal processes, to protect the rights and property of the Island Waters Institute.

Upon receipt of requests for materials or information we use this information to respond. We may also use this information to provide information about our activities, programs, fundraising opportunities, products and special events. We have opt-out procedures in place.

This privacy policy may change if technology, functionality content we provide, or laws require us to revise policies.


We recognize that the Island Waters Institute’s mission can only be realized through a common code of ethics upheld by our officers, board of directors and staff.

  • We expect integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness in our work; courage in our decisions, and dedication to our values and beliefs.
  • We expect responsible action on behalf of the organization and are accountable and transparent to our constituents and to one another.
  • We have procedures in place to ensure that any conflicts of interest or the appearance of, are avoided or appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal or other means.
  • Our solicitation of funds from the public and from donor institutions will use material that is truthful about us.  We respect the privacy concerns of individual donors and we will expend the funds consistent with donor intent.  We disclose important and relevant information to potential donors.  Our donors will:
    – Be informed of the identity of those serving on our governing board.
    – Have access to our most recent financial reports.
    – Be assured their gifts will be used for purposes for which they are given.
    – Receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition.
    – Be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.
    – Be approached in a professional manner.
    – Be encouraged to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.
  • We expect to be treated and to treat others with respect.  We respect the opinions of and the differences among individuals.
  • We expect fairness to be evident in our actions internally and externally.  We are equitable in our decisions and mindful of their impact on other groups and people.
  • We expect our actions to demonstrate our care for the ecological environment, our care for people, our care for the communities of Burlington and Bristol, as well as the world as a whole.

Our Story

The Island Waters Institute (formerly Woolman Community Development) has been on a 14-year journey to help Burlington City take advantage of a rare natural resource: a freshwater lake in an Island in a tidal river sandwiched between two urban areas.

It began during the nearly two-hour ride that founder Karen Robbins made to New York City where she underwrote affordable housing and other structured municipal securities as a First VP for Ambac Indemnity. After reading about Burlington City’s desire to use Burlington island for revitalization, Robbins being deeply interested in community rejuvenation, could not help but dwell on the possibilities.

Once situated at the NJ non-profit corporation, Woolman Community Development, Robbins responded to a Request for Qualifications issued by the Board of Island Managers for purposes of leasing Burlington Island for the maximum time permitted – a period of 24 years with two automatic extensions to develop land uses limited to conservation, recreation, culture and education. Woolman got approved, and the team got busy.

In August of 2009, the Managers appointed Woolman as its Master Developer. Negotiations began for the lease, preliminary environmental studies were conducted, plans were made to partner with Native American Groups for Phase One’s Living History Lenape Village, and efforts were made to commit investors to the primary revenue producing projects that would enable the Managers to fulfill its charity obligation to use proceeds from the Island to benefit the education of the children of Burlington. These efforts were discontinued when a requirement to achieve preliminary site plan approval by 1/2013 was not met.

Robbins learned from the obstacles, i.e., having to find an investor for property that could not be owned, an island with no access or infrastructure, threats to dump dredge spoils by the Army Corp of Engineers, city-imposed restrictions regarding access, ecological sensitivity, lack of governmental financial assistance and development limited to conservation, recreation, culture and education; all faced during the Great Recession.

Throughout the years, Robbins has remained committed to helping the Managers fulfill their mission. After exploring numerous alternative land uses that always involved a Native American presence, Robbins finally had that epiphany moment. Rather than incorporate a Native American presence into the Island’s public attractions, be it a water museum, wellness spa, nature-based resort, living history museum, campground or whatever, instead let the Native American people be the determinator of whatever that attraction becomes, and as the attraction’s sole owner, operator and manager, what it will become throughout the years.

This can only happen within the legal constraints of the NJ legislature, which in 1852 established the Board of Island Managers, and amended its charter in 1998 to permit the long-term leasing of the Island, and prohibit the sale of the Island without the consent of the city voters by a public referendum, while restricting all land uses to conservation, recreation, education or culture, with supporting facilities permitted, all of which must be available to the public.

Therefore, the proposed Eastern Woodland Consortium should expect to lease the Island for a minimum of 24 years, with at least two automatic consecutive lease renewals provided the public has access to the recreational, cultural and educational venues offered by the consortium for a fee that exclusively covers the consortium’s expenses (if lease is nominal i.e., no more than one dollar each year) or more, should the consortium choose to profit from the fees.

Board of Directors

Karen “Kay” Robbins:   President
Ms. Robbins is also a principal of OZ Capital Gains LP and OZ Manager LLC.

Jack Johnson: Treasurer
Mr. Johnson is an enrolled Member of the Delaware Nation and employed by the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department.

Ivan Pawlenko: Secretary
Mr. Pawlenko is Project Manager of Veolia and is a resident of Burlington City.

Patricia Andres, Ph.D.
Dr. Andres is the former Co-Founder and Director of the award-winning People & Stories and Rutgers University instructor.

Katharine Gaines
Ms. Gaines is an Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Engineer for NAVAIR and is of Leni-Lenape descent.

Mimi Scali
Ms. Scalia is a clinical art psychotherapist who works primarily with people experiencing trauma and loss.

Creative Consultant

Mary V. Thomas-Pressley
Ms. Thomas, MSN, NP-C. retired.