Environment

Once-Polluted Lake Gets New Life At University Of Georgia

In 2002, the University of Georgia closed Lake Herrick on its campus amid concerns about pollution. An extensive renovation project was done to clean up the lake. Now, students and residents can fish and launch kayaks, canoes and paddle boards on the lake. Swimming isn't allowed.
In 2002, the University of Georgia closed Lake Herrick on its campus amid concerns about pollution. An extensive renovation project was done to clean up the lake. Now, students and residents can fish and launch kayaks, canoes and paddle boards on the lake. Swimming isn't allowed.
Credit Brenna Beech / WABE
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The University of Georgia has reopened a lake on campus, 16 years after it was closed amid concerns about pollution.

An extensive renovation project was done to clean up the once-polluted Lake Herrick, The Athens Banner-Herald reported. Now, students and residents can fish and launch kayaks, canoes and paddle boards on the lake. Swimming isn’t allowed.

A key part of the restoration project involved a small pond upstream from Lake Herrick. Soon after the university created Lake Herrick in 1982, the pond became filled with sediment and pollutants.

Even after the lake was closed to boaters and swimmers in 2002, it remained a popular place for fishing and a prime spot for Athens residents to view the migrating birds that stop at the little oasis in the urban desert, the Athens newspaper reported.

Now, the upper pond, which drains about 17 acres, has a rebuilt dam, built-up sediment has been removed, and the invasive plants that once infested the wetlands and flood plain nearby have been removed and replaced with native plants.

A sandy beach is gone, replaced with a grassy lawn to invite Frisbee tossing or croquet, and there’s also an accessible dock for launching kayaks or canoes.

Eventually, another phase of the project would reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the two little water bodies from nearby student housing and the intramural playing fields that border part of Lake Herrick.

The lake is named for Allyn Herrick, a longtime dean of the School of Forestry, as it was called then. It has since been renamed.

The cost of the renovation project was about $579,000, largely funded through grants, according to information from the university.

Going forward, keeping Lake Herrick healthy will take “sustained efforts” on everyone’s part, said Dale Green, dean of UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

At a recent dedication ceremony, Green urged a crowd of about 200 people to “hand it to the next generation in better shape than they found it.”

“In simple terms, that’s what sustainability is all about,” he said.