Campus News

One of UB’s hidden gems is getting a much-needed makeover

By JAY REY

Published November 17, 2021

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“Kanazawa Island was in disrepair for many years … And at the same time, students and alumni still found it to be a special location.
Sean Brodfuehrer, architectural planner
in Campus Planning

Kanazawa Island, a tiny island tucked away in the north bay of Lake LaSalle near the Ellicott Complex, is getting new amenities — including new sidewalks and tree plantings — that will make this secluded islet even more attractive as a peaceful campus escape.

“Kanazawa Island was in disrepair for many years. The original asphalt paths were much too wide and were crumbling into the lake,” says Sean Brodfuehrer, an architectural planner in Campus Planning and the project’s designer.

“And at the same time,” he says, “students and alumni still found it to be a special location.”

The island, adjacent to Wilkeson Quad, is connected by a footbridge and includes some benches, a couple lamp posts, two large trees at the center of a small hill and a circular sidewalk that wraps around the quarter-acre islet.

Improvements have been underway the past few weeks and stem from UB’s yearly critical maintenance plan to replace cracked and deteriorated sidewalks around the university. For several years, Campus Planning has been working with crews in Facilities Operations to “rethink what we put back and how we put it back,” explains Brodfuehrer.

New path on Kanazawa Island.

The new sidewalks were narrowed to 5 feet and pulled back from the shoreline to mitigate future erosion. Photo: Campus Planning

As a result, the sidewalks on the island were narrowed to 5 feet and pulled back from the shoreline to mitigate future erosion. The concrete was recently poured using a buckwheat exposed aggregate that blends more nicely with the natural surroundings compared to a stark white path, Brodfuehrer says.

In addition, 12 flowering trees are being planted on the island, including nine eastern redbuds. They will form a circular ring around the inside of the path, and in the spring produce a light pink flower, similar to a cherry blossom, Brodfuehrer adds.

Jeff Angiel, director of facilities operations, credits the talented crew from the grounds and masonry departments who performed the work in-house and realized the vision for the island.

Path leading to a circular pad of concrete bearing the Kanazawa City seal.

The path leading to the seal of the city of Kanazawa, Japan, for which the island was named. Photo: Campus Operations, Mason Shop

To top off the project, a flat portion on the north side of the island was used to create a small ring around a circular pad of concrete where the Kanazawa city seal was imprinted. Kanazawa, Japan, is a sister city to Buffalo. The seal, which was stained black, feels like an appropriate nod to the sister-city relationship.

As for the history of the island itself, that’s another question.

“The formation of the island is a bit of a mystery, to be honest,” Brodfuehrer says.

He speculates it happened during construction of the Audubon Parkway, when additional fill was needed.

“The construction drawings and photos when Lake LaSalle was created do not show this as an island. It was just a peninsula to the mainland,” he says. “At some point after the Ellicott Complex was completed, it became an island.”

Regardless, the islet has long been a favorite spot for students like Jack Utter and Hannah Applebaum, who stopped by on a recent afternoon.

It’s a good place to sit and think next to the water when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the campus, says Utter.

“The benches on the other side of the lake are always full,” says Utter, a freshman. “This is a little more isolated.”

“He showed me this spot,” says Applebaum, a sophomore, “and I love it.”