By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell Landing, a canoe and kayak dock on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, will launch this fall, creating both outdoor classroom and recreational opportunities for the campus community.
The facility, carved out of a 4.33-acre piece of river land located behind the Bucknell University facilities shop on River Road, is scheduled for completion in time for students returning to campus for the fall semester, according to Jim Hostetler, director of construction and design in facilities and advisor to Bucknell's Outing Club.
The 740-square-foot floating dock will be composed of 10-by-6.67 foot modular sections that will be interconnected to form a rectangular shape on the water. Leading to the dock will be a 28-foot aluminum gangway ramp. Hinged, the ramp will float up and down with the dock according to the level of the river.
Dawn to dusk
The dock, open dawn to dusk and intended for three-season use by students, faculty and staff through the Bucknell Outing Club and Outdoor Leadership Program, will be moved to high ground for winter storage and re-assembled each spring as the weather permits.
Planning is underway to celebrate the formal grand opening of the canoe and kayak launch this fall. Hostetler envisions an annual spring "launch day" as potentially the start of a new Bucknell tradition.
The launch facility has been viewed, as Hostetler put it, "another Bucknell classroom, another outdoor laboratory."
James Rice, associate provost and dean of graduate studies, agrees.
"The Susquehanna River is extremely significant to Bucknell in a variety of ways, and we aspire to be good stewards of this important natural resource," said Rice. "The new landing will allow us much-needed access to the river in support of a broad spectrum of research initiatives, classes and co-curricular experiences for our students."
Hostetler credits former Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell as the catalyst behind the facility. "It was during the Master Plan review process that he discussed the river-front property as an opportunity to give students a chance to reconnect with the river," said Hostetler.
The land, acquired by the University in the 1990s from the Lewisburg Area Joint Sewer Authority, sits just a bit north of Red Rock, a popular river retreat for generations of Bucknellians who would while away weekend afternoons with friends on the outcrop of red shale.
Funding for the planning and construction of the facility came from three primary sources: Bucknell, the Degenstein Foundation, and Benard Sampson '69, whom Hostetler described as a firm believer in what the outdoors can contribute to a Bucknell education.
Construction started earlier this summer. Preliminary work included building a cofferdam into the Susquehanna and pumping out the river water to allow the construction team to build a concrete block revetment in a dry work environment.
A row of man-size boulders lines the newly-planted grass that leads down to the water's edge. Rice, Hostetler and Justin Salyards, facility project manager, envision classes being held on those rocks - maybe biologists studying the site to figure out how to keep invasive plant species at bay or day-tripping students being instructed on river safety.
Permitting for the build-out included creation of what Salyards called the "rain garden."
"Those are native wetland plantings that have a cleansing ability. The rain garden will catch and filter the rain runoff before it enters the river," he said. "It's all part of the landscaping and engineering required for the project."
Both Hostetler and Salyards prefer to call the fall launch the "first phase" of Bucknell Landing.
"I see a variety of possibilities," said Hostetler. "A requirement of the permitting process was to imagine a full build out of the site and its many uses. We are therefore permitted for such amenities like grills and fireplace, but it will take some collegial discussion as to what form the phases will take. We look to students and the campus community for future direction."
Meantime, Hostetler marvels at the nearby wildlife — a pair great blue herons swooping in low over the river scouting for dinner. Not too long ago, he spotted a bald eagle soaring just over the tree tops. "I can just imagine coming down here with a cup of coffee to watch the sunrise," said Hostetler.
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