It was a large gathering of enthusiastic runners along with family and friends who gathered for the 8th Annual Setting the Pace for Conservation 5K Race at the Avondale Farm Preserve. As the crowd gathered a brisk wind was blowing that sent the wind chills into the twenties. Even the cold could not dampen the spirit of onlookers and racers alike.
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Avondale Farm Preserve is approximately 50 acres in size and was acquired by the Westerly Land Trust in September 1998 as their first property. This preserve consists of coastal sandplain grassland, freshwater ponds and wetlands, brushland, and salt marsh. It has two tidal inlets with frontage on the Pawcatuck River estuary. Anyone who has not visited this wonderful preserve is encouraged to do so.
There is a 0.6-mile paved road system used for passive recreation which is ideal for this annual race. The preserve is being managed by the Land Trust to remove exotic vegetation and restore native grassland. A portion of this preserve (located in the center) has been farmed for many years as part of the Pendleton-Chapman Farm. The farming operation continues to this day as it is an important part of the conservation, agricultural, and historic values.
Jennifer Fusco, Executive Director of the Westerly Land Trust spoke about the event, “We had 55 preregistered and another 25 or more that signed up today which is terrific. It’s a great turnout on a chilly day but all for a great cause. The annual 5K is a good way for us to bring people out onto the land and to raise funds so that we can continue to do our work in land conservation.”
This race is almost as much fun to watch as it is to run. There are all kinds of folks participating. It’s great to watch husbands and wives, parents and children, young and old, all running together. The fastest time, posted by the race winner Chris Gavin, was 16:06. Second place, with a time of 16:41, was Matthew Walker and third place, with 17:08, went to Tommy Bousquet. The oldest participant at 86 years young was Colburn Graves. “Everyone who took part in today’s race was a winner,” Jennifer added. “We thank everyone for their support.”