Gold Standard

Barron Gives Back To Rowing Association With Newly Constructed Dock

Southwestern graduate Alexis Barron, right, is pictured with her father Mat on the newly constructed dock she completed behind the Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association boathouse at McCrea Point Park. P-J photo by Jay Young

When student-athletes enter their final high school years in preparation for graduation, community projects are common. Volunteering and finding a way to give back to the area is the norm. But every once in a while someone pushes the boundaries on that tradition, going above and beyond what most would expect.

Those who have had the opportunity to walk around the grounds of McCrea Point Park recently, perhaps to do some fishing or launch a kayak, may have noticed a new addition to the area.

A short walk to the water behind the Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association boathouse, down a gravel embankment lies a newly constructed dock and attached ramp.

The new dock is the passion project of CLRA product and Southwestern Central School graduate Alexis Barron, and the story of how it all came together begins many years ago.

“I’ve been in Girls Scouts for 12 or 13 years,” Barron said inside the boathouse off of Jones and Gifford Avenue. “I remember when we were younger we went to a lecture for the girls so that we would get aware of things that were happening. One of the girls that was speaking said that she had achieved her Gold Award through building a gazebo for the church. I have no idea why I remember it, but it stuck with me.”

For those who may not now, the Gold Award is the highest honor awarded by the Girl Scouts, honoring a member who has stood for excellence and leadership in their community.

In order to achieve the award, a Girl Scout must find an issue that she would like to address, investigate solutions, craft a plan, present a project and complete it.

For Barron, who began her career as a coxswain in eighth grade, the Gold Award project was an easy decision.

On a race day during high school season with just one dock, the CLRA would often see a half-dozen boats looking to get on the water, which can mean a 20-minute backup from first launch to the time all the boats are ready to go.

Limited to one launching point, things can also become tricky in the event of bad weather, should boats have to be removed in a short order of time.

Over her years spent watching and participating in races, it became clear to Barron that adding a second dock was a necessary solution.

“She is a very devoted Girl Scout, so she wanted to do something for the club because it meant so much to her. She saw this need for an extra dock,” CLRA program coordinator Jim Odrzywolski said. “Not only was she involved with the high school program but she also quickly got involved with the adult program.”

In her early years as a coxswain, Barron was too young to serve as a rower in adult classifications, so she spent her time guiding and steering for rowers who were much older and much more experienced.

The break-in period was not easy, but after slowly learning more about the sport the Lakewood native fell in love, eventually becoming a rower as a freshman.

“I switched over to rowing my ninth-grade year. I won’t lie … it was hard, but the coaches all said ‘you can do it, I know you can do better than that,'” Barron said. “Then our senior year came and going from a jayvee boat to rowing at the state meet, racing my last varsity race was the hardest thing of my life. I didn’t want to be done.”

While Barron was sad to move on from her years at the CLRA, there is no doubt that the freshman at Mercyhurst University has left an appropriate legacy.

Not only will rowers off all ages be able to use the new dock for years to come, the space is also open to the public and anyone who would like to fish or launch a boat of their own.

The updated design, which is based on the CLRA’s original dock, features an articulating ramp and dock joints so that the entire assembly is able to shift and move depending on water levels.

Invested in the project are well over the mandatory 80 hours of work necessary to achieve a Gold Award, along with nearly $10,000 dollars of donations which were organized by Barron.

“I raised, from what I gather, $9,290,” Barron said.

Included in that total was a $5,000 grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, while volunteer labor was used during he construction process.

Luckily Barron had the right contacts in that department as well, thanks to the contracting experience of her father Mat, who helped supervise the building of the dock.

“The labor was all volunteer,” Odrzywolski said. “Her dad was heavily involved in that and then various members of the club or spouses or friends would come and she would organize the work parties.”

A community project and community award to be sure, there is no doubt that all the way from the initial planning stages to the time the planks were in the water, Barron’s project sets the gold standard.