So… when can I borrow a kayak?

Written by Mike Larson
    Tuesday, 23 June 2020
So… when can I borrow a kayak?

Summer is here! Perhaps one of the most encouraging and beautiful silver lining unintended benefits of the current pandemic is that a lot more people are spending more time outside. Parks have closed roads to vehicles to encourage more pedestrian traffic, and folks are enjoying social distancing in the beautiful natural spaces our city has to offer. As a result, a lot of community members have been turning their eyes to the Urban Ecology Center. “It’s summer… when can I borrow a kayak?”

The answer… soon! The Urban Ecology Center has a plan for the gradual restart of onsite work (GROW- click here to read the full article).

That plan is trying to balance the unique situation we’re in of being both a community center and a summer camp and educational facility. The requirements and expectations that we are working to meet to provide a safe place for campers and their families put a unique constraint on our ability to be open to the public and lend equipment to our members. Just this past week our staff was able to get back into the building to prep for the summer. A lot of work needs to be done in a normal year to get ready for summer lending- boats need to be prepped, equipment needs to be checked, repaired or replaced, bikes need to be tuned, etc., and we are just now able to actually get on-site to start this work. This year, we have the added constraints associated with providing a safe and reliable check out process in accordance with health department recommendations about running a lending program.

0I3A7881 640pxWe are working hard to get all of this done as quickly as possible. We can’t give a concrete date yet because the chips that need to fall into place are beyond our control, but we hope it will happen soon. That being said, things are going to look a little different this year:

  • Our top priority is keeping our community safe! Equipment will be sanitized between each use to avoid the potential of cross-contamination between guests.
  • Equipment will be available utilizing curbside pickup, much like many restaurants and other retailers are already doing.
  • Equipment lending will start before we open to the public in general.
  • We are planning to gradually start up our equipment lending benefit in phases. Not all of our equipment will be available right away at all three branches. Some of our equipment will not be available until the threat of the pandemic is significantly reduced. For example, disinfecting tents would prove a unique challenge, and so they will not be available right away.
  • We are going to focus on the most popular equipment first… boats and bikes!
  • Equipment Lending will also be reserved as a weekend activity for now. Our records show that Saturdays are by far the most popular day to borrow equipment, so that’s where we’re going to start. This is to avoid having summer camp activities and equipment lending activities operating at the same time.
  • We are looking into ways to stagger pickup times for equipment so that members don’t all show up at the same time.
  • Equipment will be available by reservation only… no walk-ins, unfortunately.

Ok, now for some really good news. This situation is giving us an opportunity to implement two changes to our lending program that members have been asking us about for a while:

  • We are getting ready to take online reservations! You’ll be able to go right on our website and reserve the equipment you need yourself. Yay!
  • We are moving our Watercraft Lending Orientation (safety course) to an online platform! Our staff is putting together a video that you can watch and then take a short online quiz to be certified to borrow a canoe or kayak from us. This course can be taken on your own time when it’s convenient, but our staff will still be available to answer any questions you might have after you’ve taken the course.

We hope this is good news for you and that we will see you soon. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we prepare to open up our lending benefit this summer. If you want to keep up to date on information, please sign up for our weekly email blasts and check them frequently for news. We hope to be back at work and seeing you soon!

Mike Larson

Mike Larson

Mike is a happily married man living with his family in Milwaukee. As a young child he spent days playing along the banks of the Rock River, fostering a love for nature which eventually led him to study biology and pursue a career with the Urban Ecology Center. He enjoys connecting people with nature through his role as the Community Programs Manager. He hopes that the work he does can help make it possible for his two sons and other kids in Milwaukee to grow up with similar experiences to those he had as a child.


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