Lake to be drastically remodeled

NKU Facilities Management

Come next fall, Lake Inferior may need a more appropriate name.

Northern Kentucky University will soon begin construction on a $2.4 million project, adding improvements to the lake that include a bridge, waterfalls, walkways and landscaping.

“The lake was one of the original features of this land when we bought it,” said Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Larry Blake. “It was a farm pond – it was built for the animals to get a drink. It wasn’t really built as a decorative item.

“For what it was built for, it worked well. But it doesn’t really give you the atmosphere you need in the center of your campus.”

Blake said that these improvements will give the lake a new, positive atmosphere.

In his 2004-2005 State of the University Address, President James Votruba said this project will be “one of the most dramatic campus improvements” of the year.

“The lake has been a problem for a long time,” Blake said, citing maintenance issues as the biggest trouble.

“If we don’t treat it at the right time, believe me – you know we didn’t do it. It does not have sewage water in it, but that’s the odor you get, and it’s from the decaying algae and stuff that’s in the pond.”

University officials will meet in Frankfort Sept. 23 to take bids from interested contractors for the renovation project. Once a bid is accepted, construction will most likely start within a month, which could be as early as late October.

The first phase of the project includes resizing the lake, which will be tiered with a waterfall. The lake will be completely drained and will be dug deeper.

Blake said that making the lake deeper will keep the water in better shape. He said that the current lake water is in such a bad condition because it is so shallow.

Other upgrades include constructing a bridge and a retaining wall.

“The idea is that we want to get the students closer to the lake and make it usable,” Blake said.

The second phase of the project will integrate an amphitheater with the lake development and connect the lake area to the upper plaza. The amphitheater will host a multitude of outdoor events, such as speaking and music performances.

Contractors will bid on this phase in January, tentatively, and both phases of construction are planned for completion in fall 2005.

Fidelity Investments provided the largest contribution to the project, donating $1 million. The rest of the funds came from a number of private donors.

Blake said that through the design of the new lake, the university hopes to solve the problem of geese droppings on campus walkways.

“The design is really based on the fact that (geese) do not like walls. They don’t like jumping off things into the water,” he said.

“Even though they can fly in and land, they like to be able to walk in. This really should discourage them.”

Additionally, the campus’ duck population has been recently relocated to a physical plant employee’s farm pond.

Blake warned that with this exciting project come some unfortunate inconveniences for students, faculty and staff.

“It’s going to be a very difficult project. It’s going to cause a lot of disturbance in this area and there’s going to be a lot of inconvenience for awhile,” he said. “Once we get it drained and we start putting it back together it’ll get easier and easier as time goes by, but there is going to be some impact on campus while it’s being done.”

Foul odor, among other things, is a potential inconvenience of the project.

“There’s going to be a lot of not-so-pleasant stuff coming out of the bottom of this thing,” Blake said. “If you’ve ever drained a pool of any kind that sat for years, you can imagine what’s down there. So we’re looking for ways to control odor, and we know we’re going to have some difficult days.”

Blake said that some of the odor will be mitigated by the cold temperature.

Despite some degree of inconvenience along the way, Blake said that this is a worthwhile project for the university.

“It really will be a place to go instead of just a place,” Blake said. “I look for it to be a destination for students to go and spend a lot of time.

“Commuters will be encouraged to stay and the resident students will be encouraged to come over to this part of campus to do things.”

As far as the naming process goes, Blake said that the lake will need a name “that’s a little more fitting.”

“I guess (the name ‘Lake Inferior’) is a tradition,” he said, “but (when) the lake changes, maybe the tradition needs to change too.”