The City of Lynchburg and the University of Lynchburg have put together a plan that would call for College Lake not to be refilled and the dam removed.
In place of the lake would be a wetland learning laboratory, according to the unified vision plan both entities have put together.
The College Lake spilled out of its banks after heavy rain in early August and the College Lake Dam was in danger of failing.
Lynchburg Public Information Officer Jes Gearing says that, while it is unfortunate to have to take action after that flooding, she is confident that this is a step in the right direction.
“I think I can speak for both the city and the university that we’re all very excited to have this unified vision to go forward with. We’ve been talking about this concept back-and-forth for many years at this point, we’ve had many community engagement sessions,” she said.
Gearing adds that the move comes from a place of necessity.
“[The lake] had shrunk over the past decade or two from a 40-acre lake to a 17-acre lake due to the amount of sediment that was in it. And that sediment was choking out the life in the lake, so we only had a couple of years left before it was going to be classified as a dead lake.”
The cooperative plan includes turning the lakebed into a wetlands ecosystem with a urban wetlands learning laboratory, a place where officials said students, residents, tourists can study the wetland ecology.
“The decision to support the removal of the College Lake Dam was difficult, but considering that restoring the lake and the dam could cost more than $20 million, establishing wetlands emerged as the most viable option,” said Nat Marshall, Chair of the University of Lynchburg’s Board of Trustees.
“This will be the best use of our resources and will benefit our students, the general public, and the environment.”
University of Lynchburg Professor Laura Henry-Stone agrees, and even looks forward to teaching a class about the ecological history of College Lake.
She lives on Faculty Drive, which is only a five-minute drive from the area and actually looks over the lake.
“You know, I have some neighbors who have been living on Faculty Drive a lot longer than I have who are definitely sad to see the lake go,” she said.
On August 19, a wetlands seed was dropped into the lake bed by helicopter to start implementing the new vision.
Read more about the plan here.