MERIDIAN TWP. – Staff at Michigan State University Sailing Center on Lansing Lake are raising funds to make the water sports destination more accessible.
Haslett’s facility offers sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking lessons and rentals. But it remains inaccessible to many people with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, due to gravel walkways and an unstable wooden dock rather than a kayak launch pad.
The staff of the establishment wants to develop these bridges and install a launching ramp accessible to MSU students and the general public. Facilities Manager Scott Petritz and Jody Strank, Deputy Director of Marketing and Adaptive Recreation, are running a 5K run to raise money for building upgrades.
“The goal is to get more people here to use this wonderful facility and be on the water during the summer,” said Terri Hughes-Lazzell, director of communications for student affairs.
Their Adaptive 5K run will start at 1 p.m. on October 3 at Shaw Lane in East Lansing. The race itself will have run / walk, wheelchair and handcycle options.
Adapted water sports like paddleboarding and windsurfing have grown in popularity over the years as equipment progresses. But in many places, non-compliant facilities and rickety docks leave entire bodies of water inaccessible to athletes.
Apart from 5K, the center is soliciting private donations for the launch and dock, which are expected to cost $ 40,000. Strank said people can donate to reports.msu.edu or by calling (517) 355-7535.
The fundraising project is divided into phases, said Hughes-Lazzell. The first phase includes the installation of a concrete walkway from the car park to the center and to the platforms. Then, they will install a stable dock and launching ramp that allows people with disabilities to safely launch kayaks, boats and paddleboards.
“To anchor the docks you need a huge concrete slab that has to be driven in,” said Petritz. “And in order to protect that, since we have rising water levels, I would like something to be built, so at least when the water rises, we have some kind of protection.”
The total cost of the upgrades is $ 50,000, Strank said – $ 10,000 for the gangways, anchor and seawall and $ 40,000 for the dock and launch.
Strank and Petritz are applying for launch and dock grants. They are optimistic at least the gateway will be funded and installed by May 2022.
“We had a renovation a few years ago, and it’s just an extension of that, making sure everyone has access,” Strank said.
These renovations included replacing the old wooden structure in the center with a metal one and enlarging the bathroom to be ADA compliant.
Michigan State University was endowed with the sailing center in 1997. Since then, it has been managed by the MSU’s Recreational Sports and Fitness Department.
The sailing center is one of the few MSU facilities open to the general public. Scouts, 4-H and other community organizations regularly use the center for recreation and education.
Once the upgrades are complete, Petritz plans to earn the special certifications needed to lead suitable water sports courses and programs at the center. MSU kinesiology students can currently take one-credit courses at the center in sailing, paddleboarding, canoeing and kayaking, while learning to perform water rescues. Students at the College of Education could also use it once the updates are done, Strank said, to learn more about adapted athletics opportunities for students with disabilities.
But before all of that happens, the installation needs some upgrades.
“Our docks are pretty wobbly and they’re floating docks. They’re not glued to a concrete wall,” said Petritz. “Just getting on and off boats is a huge challenge.”
Petritz said he and the students who use the center regularly find it difficult to get on and off boats at the wobbly dock, prepare and keep their minds between the boards. Seniors in particular struggled to navigate the pier when he greeted them for boating lessons this summer
He estimated that the wooden docks are almost 20 years old.
Once the facility is upgraded, Petritz can focus on purchasing suitable equipment, including larger and more stable kayaks.
MSU students often use the center as a getaway from the campus, and a wider strip could do so with improved facilities.
“The Sailing Center is a real selling point that is a bit far from campus and allows people to relax and have fun,” said Petritz. “This is another opportunity where I think we are underutilized here because we are not on campus.”
MSU already has accommodation for adapted sports, including sitting and sitting volleyball, blind soccer and hand cycling. Improvements to the sailing center would expand those offerings, Strank said.
“It’s that ability to level the playing field,” she said.