SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Narrow River Preservation Association Friend of the River Award honoree Alison Kates admits she’s “so much more comfortable behind the scenes.”
Kates, the association’s program coordinator, said she was surprised, delighted and honored to receive the accolade during the association’s 50th annual meeting, held on Oct. 1.
COVID-19 restrictions turned the affair into an event held entirely on Zoom, but that worked out in the favor of NRPA President Richard Grant, who managed to be at Kates’ Peace Dale home during the meeting to surprise her with the W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award.
“W.E.R. La Farge was a founding member of NRPA and served on the board until his death in 1994. He was passionate about Narrow River,” Grant said.
Grant sat in Kates’ kitchen with a laptop while she was on a computer in another room. When it came time to present the award, Grant listed off the accomplishments of the recipient, without mentioning Kates by name until the end.
“I checked the list carefully of the 29 awards we have given in the past and, lo and behold, there was a person that was very important to NRPA, and like W.E.R. La Farge, passionate about the river, but that person hadn’t received the award yet,” Grant said.
Grant said the group’s Board of Directors chose Kates because she “had gone beyond the call of duty in every area of NRPA,” he said. Kates “generated for NRPA an unmatched new level of structure, exciting promotion programs, diligent record-keeping and accurate digital communication with the Board of Directors, the membership, sponsors, and partners, all the while smiling and expressing care for everyone involved.”
After hearing her name, Kates briefly joined Grant in her own kitchen to receive the award.
“Thank you very much, this is a treasure,” Kates said, adding with a laugh, “You’re very sneaky, I don’t know if I like that.”
“Well we liked it,” Grant said. “She’s been a right hand, left hand, left foot and right foot in helping me on new projects. Basically I’m in charge of fundraising, and Alison has a sense about her that just puts all of my scattered thoughts together. The accomplishments of the last two years have brought NRPA to a new level. I’m excited about the future.”
Kates, who has been NRPA’s program coordinator since 2016, will retire from the position in December and plans to stay with the organization as an active volunteer. As part of the proceedings, Kates gave an overview of NRPA’s many volunteers.
“Volunteers are the backbone of NRPA,” she said. “We thank everyone who has helped this year in ways large and small.”
Grant also provided a review of the year’s activities, including NRPA’s water quality monitoring program River Watch, cleanups along the river and the successful 13th annual Pettaquamscutt Paddle, which went on in July with some pandemic adjustments.
The annual road race and swim was canceled, but the association held a “50 for 50” virtual event, challenging participants to do 50 minutes of activity in honor of the 50th anniversary of NRPA.
Also this year, the NRPA and the Narrow River Land Trust collaborated to introduce a popular osprey webcam as part of NRPA’s education program for fourth graders.
“Each year we present a curriculum on osprey to local fourth graders in the schools,” Grant said. The online program was created by NRPA Board Member Craig Wood and Kates, Grant noted.
During the meeting, Kates presented the 2020 Environmental Appreciation Award to Jim Murtagh and Terry Shaw, who installed the osprey webcam.
Grant also introduced NRPA’s new book, “The Pettaquamscutt Estuary: The Narrow River Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” by board member Barry Devine. The book, which includes articles, maps and photos of Narrow River, is available for purchase at NRPA’s website, narrowriver.org.
Jason Considine, NRPA board member and owner of Narrow River Kayaks, then drew the winning ticket of NRPA’s annual kayak raffle. Gary Philkrantz of Narragansett won the Old Town Heron XT kayak, paddle and more items donated by Narrow River Kayaks.
In 2021, NRPA will celebrate the 10th season of the On Pettaquamscutt Winter Speaker Series by sponsoring the series once again. On March 28, Wood will present “The Ospreys of Narrow River” as part of the series. More information about the series is available at onpettaquamscutt.org.