We stand next to it, walk past it, talk about what’s in it, look critically at it, but never do we truly see what is right in front of our eyes. This magnificent and beautiful body around which an entire institution has grown and developed. It sits there silently, taking our trash, our disapproval, our problems and give back a center piece which is bragged about to prospectives and their parents. We don’t understand what we are doing to it and most of us don’t even care to find out.
Follow a creek that forms in Tuckahoe, VA for a brief 2 miles and you reach Westhampton Lake. This creek, named Little Westham, receives water from an area of less than 10 square miles but holds a population over 20,000 residents before it reaches our campus. Despite the short time it takes for water to reach Westhampton Lake the amount of nutrient enriched fertilizer, discarded trash, and various debris which enters the water and is poured into the lake is unimaginably high. Left unchecked the algae growth would dominate the still waters of Westhampton Lake. This issue was partially remedied when bubblers were placed in the water to disrupt algae clumps from forming but didn’t solve the greater issue at hand. If the pumps are off or if you look around the more still edges of the lake you can see the oils and algae blooms indicative of negative environmental impact, impact due to human apathy towards simple tasks or misinformation.
I want to see this lake as I tell prospective I do, clear and beautiful. But I can’t, I just don’t see it when, at 8:30 in the morning there are massive slicks of oil, clumps of sticks, limbs, or other debris, and trash discarded and caught on the banks. The issue I’m mentioning here are only just those due to exterior factors. Ask any student on campus where the ‘Green’ bikes end up by the end of the first month and they will tell you – “the lake”. We, the students, contribute massive amounts of pollutions as well, from leaving trash littered about the forum and common’s bridge to over 500 wax candles and paper holders found in the lake from last year’s Proclamation Night (A first year men’s only event).
I walk next to this lake daily, as most of us do, but I never understood how we are the reason behind its ugly side. I’m starting to notice things that can help and actions I can do to help make the lake into the beautiful place that I say it is. I’ve begun to look at the lake at all times, to be critical of why it is beautiful and why it is not and how to potentially remedy that. When I talk with professors about the lake and its surrounding watershed they speak with passion and love of something that, for many of them, they have watched degrade over time despite their best efforts.
The lake is beautiful, or should I say, it can be in the right light but I want to be able to look at it when the pumps are off and the people are gone and see the same beauty. I can’t do it alone, but I’m hoping we, the students, the residents of the University of Richmond or Tuckahoe, or anywhere, can get it to that point.