NEW FRANKLIN  More than 400 runners, walkers and spectators descended upon Portage Lakes State Park April 15 for the Portage Lakes Advisory Council Run To the Beach 5K run and walk.

The scenery, the weather and the cause could not have been better, according to participants and organizers, and the event raised an estimated $6,000 for PLAC.

With a one-mile Easter Egg Scramble as an option, the runners and walkers represented all levels of experience. Green residents Cory and Katie Ruthsat enjoyed the family outing aspect of the event, as their 2-year- old son, Xander, took in much of the course from the vantage point of his father’s arms.

“We were talked into it by family members,” Katie laughed. “But it is a great day for this.”

Veteran runner Bill Warthing, of Akron, caught his breath momentarily after crossing the finish line at just more than 36 minutes and enjoyed his first Run to the Beach experience.

“I usually do longer races, about three times a year,” Warthing said. “This was a good race. The scenery was great and the people are fun.”

Portage Lakes residents Mike and Sue Sikora came in at just less than 40 minutes – and just in time for breakfast and brought friends from the New Philadelphia and Dover area to the race.

Lakes advocacy

Formed 31 years ago as a Portage Lakes advocacy group, the PLAC has spearheaded stormwater runoff projects, locks and water trail planning, dredging projects, water quality education, and annual clean-up efforts over its three decade existence. With board representation from the cities of New Franklin and Green, the organization continues to promote recreational use and enhance the quality of life and the lakes’ ecosystem, while expanding economic opportunity and providing a voice for Portage Lakes residents.

PLAC president Lynn Stamp said the vitality of the Lakes area impacts the entire community.

“In past generations, people would shop for a job and (not) the community,” she said. “Millennials shop for the community and the lifestyle and then look for the job.”

That makes maintaining the natural resources of Portage Lakes thus becomes even more important, Stamp said.

PLAC Junior Board President and Coventry High School student Megan Raines, agreed that events like Run to the Beach can both expose and help drive home PLAC’s message and mission to her generation.

“Portage Lakes is such a beautiful community, we have to get the kids involved,” she said.

Triumphant return

While this year’s Run to the Beach marked the first time the race has been held since 2014, race founder and director Sean Fremon said the running community is a faithful one.

“What I have found is that the beneficiary is not always the primary reason people come out, but at the same time, someone benefits,” he said, adding that the uniqueness of the Run to the Beach course – including its conclusion on the beach itself – has helped cement its reputation among the runners.

PLAC board vice president Jill Flagg Lanzinger said that benefit is a win-win for both race organizers and her organization.

“For PLAC, this is one event where we can really show what we do,” she said.