The fallen leaves from nearby river birches, tulip poplars, and maples crinkled beneath me as I found a seat on a boulder that marked the spot where one of two tributaries flows into Westhampton Lake. The harsher light of mid-afternoon is just beginning to soften into the softer glow of evening.
The clear water of the stream is calm and quite low from a lack of any significant amount of rain in recent weeks. The stream and surrounding area actually looks quite healthy in general. A riparian zone of decent width lines both sides of the streams, woody debris lies in several places throughout the stream, and the banks are not badly eroded. The only sign of a lake not far away and some erosion in this stretch of stream and further upstream is the thick layer of sediment that covers the bed of the stream and has even formed islands and sand bars within the stream. Besides the sound of traffic on College Road about one hundred feet away, the stream, lake, and surrounding area all look very natural – I even saw a fish jumping in the lake to catch its evening meal.
Sitting at this point where the stream that has run through neighborhoods north of campus finally enters our campus and runs into the lake that stands as the central point of the UR community, I began to think more deeply about our connection to the community outside the campus boundaries, and the role that water plays in that connection. I have seen before how Westhampton lake draws members of the outside community onto campus to walk their dogs, or take family photos with the bright fall colors, or even to discover local artists at the Arts Around the Lake Festival. But how does water connect those of us on campus to the outside community? As water flows into campus from further up the Little Westham Creek watershed, and then flows out the other
side of campus, it automatically connects to the community that influences the water before it reaches us, and is then influenced by the water that has passed through our campus. We are all connected through this water that flows by us, and we are all connected in our task to protect the water so that it is just as clean when it reaches the next person downstream as it was when it flowed to us from the person upstream.