The town-owned parcel, located on state Route 73 along the banks of the East Branch of the Ausable River, had been a staging area for the Rivermede river restoration project. As the volunteers spread out topsoil a few feet away from shore, Ironman Foundation Executive Director David Deschenes said his organization and the Newton team actively look for ways to give back to communities that host the Ironman race.
“The mantra of the team is service through sport and commitment to community,” he explained.
Corrie Miller, executive director of the Ausable River Association (AsRA), said her organization has worked to educate the public about protecting the Ausable River watershed. In 2012, AsRA, the town of Keene, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Essex County Soil & Water Conservation District wrapped up a 2,800-foot river project near Rivermede Farm, which included restoration of fish and wildlife habitats and the installation of natural features that provide resilience to future flooding.
“The week after we put these structures in, we had fish coming back,” he said. “We’re creating a tremendous fish habitat.”
But the land between the river and the highway needed work, since Rock Cut Park was used as a staging area for the restoration project.
“This spot is where we had a temporary bridge across the river,” Miller said. “We had excavators here, and huge rocks – it was a storage area. This project begins the last phases of cleaning up.”
In addition to spreading and leveling topsoil at Rock Cut Park, the volunteers also laid down some seed.
“I would have to spend a lot of money to have this kind of manpower for a day,” Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee added.
The Newton team did more than provide manpower last week – they also raised $6,000 to donate to AsRA, a welcome surprise for Miller.
“It’s great to have this group here giving back to the community that hosts them every summer,” she said. “It’s also great that they’re willing to engage in these kinds of local community projects that ultimately take a lot of partners to make happen.”
The grant money was raised by the athletes themselves, Deschenes explained.
“They asked their friends and their families to support this cause,” he said. “And the other portion of that grant comes directly from our foundation. We set aside some of our grant dollars to come back to the Ausable River Association.”
Diane Peterson of Hawthorn Woods, Ill., finished in the top 20 for her age group on Sunday. She’s been involved with the Ironman Foundation for more than three years.
“I was lucky to be selected as part of the Newton ambassador team,” Peterson said. “It’s important to me because I like the environment and it’s a neat way to give back to the community. We come out here and we train, and the people are gracious to give us room on the roads to bike and run. It’s nice to return the favor.”
In all, the Ironman Foundation doled out some $55,000 in grants to local causes over the last week, Deschenes said. Since 1999, he said the organization has donated $1.5 million in the Lake Placid region.
A film crew was on hand for last Thursday’s volunteer event at Rock Cut Park. Click here to check it out.
Additionally, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that Ironman Foundation members delivered about 4,000 chocolate chip cookies to 600 houses along the race course. Karen Cooper of Lake Placid gets the assist for helping bake the goodies.
Full disclosure: Cali Brooks, ACT’s executive director, linked the Ironman Foundation up with the AsRA to help coordinate this volunteer project.
Photos: Above, Ironman Foundation volunteers take a break from their work at Keene Valley’s Rock Cut Park; and below, volunteers leveling topsoil at Rock Cut Park in Keene Valley.