‘Ice Out’ challenge clean water fundraiser

By Camille Sweet

Special to the Observer

The Lake Iroquois Association has kicked off its first “Ice Out Challenge” where contestants try to guess the exact moment a cinder block will break through the ice during the spring thaw. Entries will be accepted through March 1. The cinderblock will be set up on the lake in mid-February. 

The association is hoping for $1,000 in ticket sales, with half the pot going to the person who guesses the time closest to when the ice breaks and half going to the Lake Wise program, which educates lakefront landowners on how to limit runoff from their property into the water. The association hopes to make this friendly competition an annual event.

Shannon Kelly is a member on the Lake Iroquois Association board and an environmental manager at the Vermont National Guard. His passion for Vermont culture and creating clean water systems influences the work he does in environmental conservation. Kelly’s wife grew up on Lake Iroquois, spending summers at her family camp on the Hinesburg side. Kelly has been visiting Vermont for nearly two decades. 

“I have had the privilege of going to Lake Iroquois to swim or fish or recreate and spend time with family,” said Kelly. 

After the Lake Iroquois Association amended its bylaws to allow non-lake residents to join the board, Kelly jumped at the opportunity to join the association that he holds close to his heart. 

The cinder block will be placed on a pallet with a small flag for visibility. A rope will be tied to the pallet and cinder block assembly and looped around a clock, so that as soon as the pallet goes under the surface, the clock will disconnect and stop the time, recording the exact time that the ice breaks.

Tickets are available on the Lake Iroquois Association website, As of Monday, 490 tickets have been sold, with community members guessing, down to the hour, when the ice will break. 

The idea for the Ice Out Challenge came from Joe’s Pond in West Danville, which is famous for its Ice Out fundraiser. Many lakes around Vermont hold similar challenges. 

“I see the enthusiasm that Joe’s Pond has generated,” Kelly said. “They raised $12,000. It’s a really fun way for people to participate in the middle of winter. It’s human nature to participate in games of chance.”

The Lake Wise program, where half the money raised will be donated, is part of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The association wants to incentivize property owners to take extra steps to keep the lake clean and limit runoff. 

“It’s designed to influence landowners, particularly folks that live near the shoreline of lakes around Vermont, to participate in establishing vegetative buffers, doing what’s called low impact development, just some design to protect the health of the lake by slowing runoff,” Kelly said. 

The goal of the Lake Wise program is to establish a new culture of landscaping on shorelines that helps protect lakes and waterways. The Ice Out Challenge is an opportunity for community members to donate to a cause that positively impacts their watershed, as well as brings a bit of friendly competition to winter days. 

Camille Sweet is a reporter with the Community News Service, a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program. Photo by Shannon Kelly.