Charity event draws riders from all over

Mike Jablonski, left, and Dave Swits wave as they near the end of their 30-mile bike ride around Wilmington and Jay on Sunday as part of the Ride for the River, a benefit for the Ausable River Association.
(Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Mike Jablonski, left, and Dave Swits wave as they near the end of their 30-mile bike ride around Wilmington and Jay on Sunday as part of the Ride for the River, a benefit for the Ausable River Association. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

WILMINGTON — About 100 people set out Sunday morning under clear skies from the Hungry Trout in Wilmington to ride around the watershed of the AuSable River.

In the process, they likely raised around $10,000 for the organization keeping tabs on that same watershed.

The AuSable River Association has hosted the “Ride for the River” since 2012, when the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene was still keenly felt. The various streams and rivers that make up the watershed of the AuSable bore a tremendous burden from the storm’s damage in August 2011.

Association Executive Director Kelley Tucker said that each year since has been a success.

“We were expecting around 100, so we’re pretty excited,” Tucker said Sunday afternoon during a barbecue at the Hungry Trout in Wilmington. “Slowly it grows year after year.”

Tucker said the event — which includes three routes of different distances and an after party — has gained in popularity each year.

“We try and make it better,” she said. “We’ve really expanded the party part since the 2012 event.”

While many locals took part in either the 60-, 30-, or 5-mile loops, Tucker said the event is a draw for people from around the Northeast.

“We were manning — or womaning — the first station, and we were surprised at the amount of people from Albany, Balston Spa, Plattsburgh and Vermont,” she said. “But we’ve always had a steady group of locals here.”

Dave Swits from Charlton, near Saratoga Springs, said it was his first time at the event, but that he and his family would be back for more.

“I fish a lot up here at the AuSable and it’s just a good cause,” Swits said after finishing his 30-mile ride with his daughter’s boyfriend Mike Jablonski.

“I’m tired,” he laughed. “I was going to ride that bike from 25 years ago, but he let me ride his bike. I had one fall trying to get used to the toe clips.

Swits said both of his daughters came to the area with him. One daughter completed the 60-mile ride while his other spent the weekend fishing.

“We made it kind of a family thing,” he said. “And I think next year we’re all going to ride.”

The money raised from the event goes toward the association’s programs and research. The group works on culverts, stream restoration and water quality monitoring and protection. This includes one of the more visible efforts in the Adirondacks: placing portable toilets at popular pull-offs, parking areas and trailheads for the public to use.

“We are a small, scrappy little organization that tries to get a lot of good work done on the ground,” Tucker said. “So we’re focusing on clean water issues, especially the impacts of road salt on our water bodies like Mirror Lake and the river itself.

“We’re reducing flood impacts; we’re supporting native brook trout and other diverse wildlife species,” she said. “We’re a tool for getting information to the public about how to care for the river, how to enjoy the river, how to recreate with the river in a way that’s respectful but fun.”

For more information on the association, go to www.ausableriver.org.

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