Published September 18, 2014
It has been a backdrop for photos, concerts and fireworks displays. It’s a well-known onshore fishing spot.
But have you ever seen a boat on Lake LaSalle? If the answer is no, you’re not alone.
That’s starting to change, however, as UB students, faculty and staff don life jackets and sit in brightly colored kayaks and canoes to paddle the familiar, yet underutilized, body of water on the North Campus.
The boats are kept at a boat launch, which the university installed earlier this month between The Commons and the Center for the Arts. The launch is part of an effort to further engage the UB community, especially students, in nearby natural resources.
Barbara J. Ricotta, associate vice president for campus life, spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the dock on Monday. She joked that the lake’s most visible residents, flocks of Canada geese, now have to share the lake, which was built in 1970 as a flood-control device.
“So here we are, about 40 years later, saying we should do something with it,” said Ricotta, explaining how multiple university organizations developed a plan to install the dock.
The dock is part of an initiative to “activate” the lake, said Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer. He noted that 20 percent of the world’s available freshwater — the Great Lakes — passes through Western New York and that water has shaped the culture and identity of the region.
“For many years, we’ve had this connection here on the North Campus in the form of Lake LaSalle. And while it’s great to look at, it’s quite another thing to be on it, to appreciate it, to feel it and to let it transform you when needed,” he said.
Boating hours are from dawn to dusk for those using their own boats. Hours for paddlers using UB boats are from 3-7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, weather permitting. All boaters must wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and adhere to New York State boating regulations.
First-time paddlers must take part in a short instructional-based session regarding the rules, regulations and safety. Paddling instruction is available to those who do not know how to paddle. Members of UB’s Outdoor Pursuits club will be on site to provide guidance.
For a more complete list of rules and
regulations is available online.
The UB organizations that worked on the boat launch project are University Life and Services; Student Life; the Office of Sustainability; Outdoor Pursuits; Environment, Health and Safety; University Police; and University Facilities.
To have boats and canoes on Lake LaSalle is a delight. This is good not only for direct members of the UB community, but also for neighbors and anyone who could become more closely affiliated with UB.
All universities should extend, by their design and community demeanor, an ongoing open invitation to their surrounding communities: an invitation to come, participate and to belong. People not already members of the UB community should look to UB with a general fondness for the school, with a general aspiration to be part of the UB community and, ultimately, with a particular aspiration to become students.
To paddle a canoe while pondering the possibility of becoming a student seems like a natural and, frankly, good use of any good day and perhaps a way for some people to become fuller members of the UB community. To be able to do so while looking around at the UB campus seems to me to be just plain right.
I believe it was in his book "The Wind in the Willows" that Kenneth Grahame wrote: "There is nothing — absolute nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Indeed, we may now do something very much worth doing. We may simply "mess about in boats" on campus and we may invite the surrounding community to join us in this good and right use of an afternoon.
With the sound of the second syllable of the name "LaSalle," it seems our lake was intended for boating. It seems almost one's duty now to get out there and "mess about in a boat."
Is this the same "lake" that was created from wetland on the North Campus? If so, I played hockey on this lake in the '70s when I was an undergraduate at UB. The Ellicott Complex was new and the lake was smelly, and most people stayed away. But we certainly were active on that lake, even though we had to clear off snow, and the ice surface was anything but smooth.
Also, I had the pleasure of falling into the lake retrieving my hockey stick one morning as I tested the ice to see if we could play that day. Memories ...
Lake LaSalle was a great venue for the Buffalo Niagara Hope Chest Dragon Boat Festival held on June 14. Next year on June 13, 2015, we will hold dragon boat racing on Lake LaSalle to benefit breast cancer survivor programs. We hope UB's community supports this tremendous day of racing and breast cancer survivor programs. Check us out on www.hopechest.org.