Cleaning of UB's Lake LaSalle during Earth Week
Outdoor Adventure Club uses kayaks and canoes to clean up the lake
Traffic cones, stools, a satellite dish and pizza boxes – items normally found in a dumpster – were all pulled out of Lake LaSalle on Friday afternoon.
The Outdoor Adventure Club (OAC), in partnership with the office of Outdoor Pursuits, pulled these and other bizarre items out of the lake in a cleanup effort as a part of UB’s Earth Week celebration.
“It was crazy,” said Andrew Charbonneau, a sophomore environmental engineering major and OAC trip leader. “We didn’t even finish the whole lake and had 25 bags of trash.”
Roughly 15 students, mainly members of the OAC, helped clean around 75 percent of the man-made lake, and thanks to a recent partnership between Outdoor Pursuits and Student Life, kayaks and canoes were used in the cleanup effort for the first time ever. The OAC does a cleanup every year around campus, but this was the first year students were able to go out onto the lake and use paddles to scoop out trash along the shoreline.
Kayaking and canoeing on the lake became available last fall, as Student Life installed a dock and Outdoor Pursuits donated kayaks and canoes for students to rent.
Charbonneau noted that kayaks and canoes made this year’s lake cleanup the most successful one yet.
“When Outdoor Pursuit merged with Student Life it opened up a lot of opportunities for [OAC], and students, to get involved with outdoor life,” Charbonneau said. “One being the use of kayaks on the lake.”
Brian Johnson, a junior communication major and OAC’s vice president, stressed the importance of using canoes and kayaks to help clean the lake. He said after only collecting trash from the shoreline for several hours, he can’t imagine how much is actually at the bottom of the lake. There are parts of the Lake LaSalle shoreline that are steep and inaccessible by land, and therefore garbage has been piling up there, according to Johnson.
“There was lots of crap on the edges near the tree line,” Johnson said. “We just grabbed what we could with our paddles and hands … it was nasty in some parts.”
Litter is a problem anywhere humans travel. Whether it is on top of Mount Everest or at Lake LaSalle, humans pollute the environment, according to Russ Crispell, director of Outdoor Pursuits and OAC’s faculty adviser.
“We found bottles, tons of paper, a few dollar bills, a chair … it is incredible what one finds,” Crispell said. “Sad to say … Litter is a problem everywhere.”
Lake LaSalle was created in 1970 to provide flood control and water runoff while the UB North Campus was being constructed, according to UB Facilities. The average depth of the lake is 10 feet and it is 25 feet at its deepest point.
Littering in Lake LaSalle is enforced by University Police and offenders can receive a $250 fine if caught, according to UB Sustainability. An offender of a litter ordinance would receive a traffic summons if caught, according to Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle. He said each town makes its own violations regarding litter, and because it is not a crime, these violations are not recorded as such.
Schoenle said it’s possible the excess litter found Friday may have blown out of garbage cans and dumpsters. He said more litter is being discovered now that the snow has melted so not all of the trash found on campus can be attributed to littering.
The OAC has been doing events like the lake cleanup in an effort to become more engaged with UB and the surrounding communities, according to Charbonneau.
“This is the direction we want to take the OAC,” Charbonneau said. “Being more involved with the community and helping the environment is what we’re looking to do.”
The office of Outdoor Pursuits merged with Student Life in the fall of 2014, which brought the Outdoor Pursuits office to the Student Union and has allowed students to rent hiking gear, take wilderness courses and kayak on Lake LaSalle for free.
Crispell said Outdoor Pursuits is looking to get students more involved with maintaining a healthy environment for the campus. Crispell is advocating this involvement through events like the lake cleanup.
The OAC recently received a grant to chaperone a fifth grade Buffalo public school class at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in downtown Buffalo on May 9.
The grant came from the New York State Park Service and will provide admission for the OAC and the children, according to senior physics major and senior trip leader with OAC Steven Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz said the trip would help get students in the OAC more involved with the community and the outdoors.
“This is all a part of the OAC being a larger part of the Buffalo community,” Rabinowitz said.
Members of the OAC, such as sophomore health and human sciences major Celia Rosen, said they were happy and proud to clean up part of the campus,
“We had a lot of fun doing it,” Rosen said. “Cleaning the environment is awesome.”
Charles Schaab is an asst. news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org