Around 100 people cleared out 2,000 pounds from Ausable River’s banks
By Tim Rowland
It’s been a long winter. Fourteen months, by some gauges. So when three times the number of people than organizers were expecting showed up to help clean up the Ausable River watershed on April 24, it was a celebration not just of Earth Day week, but of the chance to lightly socialize and soak up some spring sun among fellow conservationists.
“The texts and emails just kept coming,” said Tyler Merriam, donor outreach manager for the Ausable River Association (AsRA). With about 30 people expected, close to 100 showed up in Wilmington to collect bright orange trash bags — in properly distanced groups — and head out to the banks of the East and West Branches of the Ausable.
The watershed cleanup was part of a wider effort by local Rotary clubs this week, which are taking part in Rotary International’s Great Lakes Watershed Cleanup.
Locally the Rotary Club of the Ausable Valley and Rotary Club of Lake Placid joined forces with One Tree Planted, Trout Unlimited, and Adirondack Riverwalking to support the effort.
Volunteers were on the road between Wilmington and Lake Placid, and along the East Branch between Jay and Keene.
The Ausable with its myriad of spectacular views holds a special place for many anglers, boaters, hikers and passing motorists, leading many to want to protect it.
Tom Terrizzi of Wilmington said he became a fan years ago, when he finally stopped periodic renting, buying a home just south of the hamlet of Wilmington. Just a few paddle strokes upstream from the Town Beach, the West Branch bends into the mountains and near dawn or dusk the fish begin to jump.
“Not far (from the beach) it’s pristine, and you can sit there and look at Whiteface and watch the vibrant aquatic life,” Terrizzi said. Love of the river encouraged him to become more vested, taking a course in invasive-species identification, and keeping an eye on erosion.
And the river offers teachable moments for young and old alike. Farrah Whitney of Keene brought one of several Girl Scout Troops to the event, even as the trash bags were almost as tall as some of the girls who were wielding them. “It’s a good chance for them to get out to see what the community is about and help clean up; they’re the next generation,” Whitney said.
The Ausable’s branches begin above 4,000 feet on the shoulders of Mt. Marcy, where they begin a merry tumble to the valleys below. In less than 100 miles, the river has given up all but 100 feet of that elevation, as it flows into Lake Champlain. The watershed covers 512 square miles, includes 94 miles of river channel, and is fed by more than 70 streams, including its two major tributaries, the Chubb River and Black Brook.
It’s a lot to keep track of, but greater awareness has led to more volunteers. Saturday’s event “just kept expanding and expanding,” Merriam said. “So many people are happy to give back.”
When the snows melt and a winter’s worth of trash shows its face, volunteers are naturally inspired to lend a hand, Merriam said — and with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, there was a happy feeling that people will once again be able to come together for good.
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