Sheila Reiter and I plucked these balls out of Lady Bird Lake during a paddling session on Tuesday. Pam LeBlanc photo

It turns out that canoe racing helps make Lady Bird Lake a cleaner place.

That’s because it’s become something of a game among local paddlers training for the Texas Water Safari to pick up balls – tennis, ping pong, whiffle and others – that they find while training.

If you’ve explored Lady Bird Lake, you’ve no doubt spotted a bobbing yellow tennis ball or two. Most of them are runaways from dog parks at Red Bud Isle and Vic Mathias Shores.

Plenty of paddlers fetch errant balls, but veteran canoe racer Mike Gordon got the ball officially rolling, if you will, when he began posting about his finds on the ATX Paddlers group page on FaceBook. He calls the effort his Ball Collection Quest, and he’s snagged well more than 100 orbs from Lady Bird Lake so far this year.

Here are some of the balls that Mike Gordon has fetched from the lake. Mike Gordon photo

“This is the first year I’ve made it a must-do game and priority,” Gordon says. “Most paddlers pick them up when it’s easy and they’re on training lines. But it takes a bit of crazy to make it a game.”
I like that game. Guess I’m crazy.

Others have joined in, including enthusiastic ball nabber Geoff Waters. I spotted him on Lady Bird Lake Tuesday with a boatload of balls, including five tennis balls, a soft ball, a ping pong ball and a blue kids’ ball.

“I don’t ignore other trash,” Waters says. “I also got half dozen Styrofoam cups, a similar number of plastic bottles and some miscellaneous Styrofoam chunks.”

Geoff Waters collected 33 balls in one trip, after the weekend rains. Geoff Waters photo

This after hauling in 33 balls earlier in the week, after the weekend’s torrential rains. Last week, he brought in a slightly smaller catch, plus an empty glass booze bottle. He posted a photo, noting that “maybe if the dogs quit drinking they’d be able to fetch their dang balls.”

 I scored seven tennis balls, a ping pong ball (where are they coming from?) and a random plastic ball during a training run Tuesday with Sheila Reiter. We plucked them out of the lake and I took them home for proper disposal.

If you’re out on the lake, please pick up a ball or two. The dogs can’t get ‘em all.






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