Ducks are not a reason to build another lake

In many ways, I think it’s good that each university has a ‘thing’ to make it stand out from the crowd. York’s ‘thing’, that special selling point, is a lake and the associated ducks (alongside being an incredible centre for higher education obviously). Ducks are sweet, they make the concrete metropolis of campus seem somehow more alive, and it’s always lovely to see families with little kids coming onto campus on Saturday mornings to feed them. But take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and things aren’t quite so easy. I’ve been informed that technically, the lake should be called a pond. It is completely artificial, which makes it seem significantly less interesting and impressive. It’s essentially a concrete hole filled with unmentionable biological gunk, and a tiny bit of water. Nice as it looks on the front of the prospectus, the reality is a little, well, murkier.

Surely we have enough problems with this lake, considering the pollution, weird algae and ever-present risk of inebriated students falling in, to last us a lifetime? Why, therefore, does the University want to build another one on the new campus at Heslington East?

The University is perpetrating a very negative image of itself to the public

With the question of the new lake, it’s not only a matter of creating yet another biohazard for the biology students to study, but the local residents have objected to the creation of another lake on University land, which is a different (but very important) problem. We already have a lake which fulfills all possible functions: scenic photo opportunity, environmental concern and student initiation venue. We do not need another lake, and the ‘benefits’ of having another lake do not outweigh losing respect and co-operation with locals , who the University seems to be treating contemptuously.

It can’t be easy living near a university anyway, with the noise and annoyance of thousands of drunken students. By marginalising the concerns about the lake of the residents nearby, the University is perpetrating a negative image of itself to the public.

One of the biggest problems with the lake is the waterfowl it attracts which, while adorable (I personally hate anything bigger than the ducks) do defecate all over campus and, the geese especially, make a lot of noise. From personal experience, they’re also pretty intimidating. Being trapped in a building by two geese, pecking at the the glass on the doors, taught me that lesson.

It is admittedly quite fun to have the lake on campus; it makes university life that bit more interesting and makes a welcome change from all the grey buildings we have here. But surely good local relations are more important than another large concrete hole in the middle of Hes East?

5 comments

  1. I’m pretty certain that part of the uni’s sales pitch when they were trying to secure consent from the government, was that the development on Hes East would have a significant and positive impact on the diversity of the previously rather barren eco-system.

    Measures were put in place to ensure that damage to the existing balance would be limited and plans, such as the lake, would be developed so as to increase the bio-diversity of that region.

    The lake, I believe, was a more important part of the bid than the swimming pool was

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  2. Instead of a lake and a swimming pool on Hes East, how about a large outdoor swimming pool?

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  3. I read somewhere that the reason that the lake on campus is a biohazard is that it’s too shallow, and as such has become stagnant. The lake on the new campus is going to be a lot deeper, apparently, and won’t suffer from such problems.

    Good local relations are important, but so is biodiversity and an attractive campus. A more attractive campus will better enable us to compete with other universities, and as such benefit the local area in various relatively obvious ways.

    Locals will find all sorts of reasons to preserve the status quo – that doesn’t always mean that they should be listened to.

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  4. The new lake is going to both be deeper (2.5 m at maximum), and have better flow through it, which should help prevent the problems with algae in the Hes West lake. The shallow areas are also going to be planted with reeds and other plants that’ll help to denitrify the water (and hence reduce algae). So it shouldn’t turn bright green like the old one.

    There’s more than you could ever want to know about water on the new campus in a massive PDF here: http://www.york.ac.uk/campusdevelopment/heseast/keydocs/SuDS%20Strategy%20Approved%20July%2008.pdf

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  5. The lake was created because a certain percentage of the land given over to the original development had to remain building free. The lake was a simple way of doing this whilst also providing a focal point for the campus.

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