by: Janae Tucker
Rider University’s Centennial Lake, located in the back of campus near the Fine and Liberal Arts building, is home to many creatures and organisms.
Chantel Pressley, a junior and sociology major at Rider, does not visit the lake often because it tends to have a foul smell from the floating algae.
“I’ve always wondered what is at the bottom of the lake but it looks so polluted sometimes. I wish it did not look like that. When the sun is shining, it’s a great place to take pictures though,” she laughs.
Centennial Lake, 120 cm (or a meter and a half) in depth was constructed in the early 1950s through the 1960s mainly to be an immediate source of water for fire emergencies that lowers insurance costs and for flood control in case of extreme natural disasters.
According to Dr. Kathy Browne, Assistant Provost Director of the Science Center at Rider, Centennial Lake has not always looked as it appears today. “We have monitored the lake on more than one occasion to make sure it is at its highest potential,” she says.
For those who do not know, Centennial Lake in the past was a terrible location at Rider; it full of gravel, rocks, and dead grass. Randy Kertes, Rider alumnus and adjunct professor, took leadership of the lake in the late 90s and brought his own company of professionals in to help rebuild the structure of the lake.
Kertes received funding from the state- specifically the Department of Environmental Protection- and by spring 2000, the first restoration project began.
Overall, the project focused on the lake’s appearance -at the time of a pea soup green color-and also aimed to control the waste left behind by Canadian geese. There was also an issue of no vegetation, not to mention the dissatisfaction of those at Rider. These problems needed to be fixed.
Since the first project began, many have continued after. All of the projects still focused on the same problems and new challenges. Some which include Mother Nature bringing substantial rainfall every now and then to flush out the nasty algae one might see while passing by the lake and to keep the volume of the lake small and proportional so that it does not overflow. Another challenge is maintaining and controlling Centennial’s wild steep edges. In order to do so Rider’s team of geological lake experts including Browne have installed natural coconut fiber logs, placed hundreds of plants and native species in the lake and brought the European unnatural massive plant, the Purple Loosestrife, to Centennial Lake to spread all around its edges so that it forces out unwanted plants and their growth and eliminates any unnecessary biodiversity.
Beginning in 2002, the New Jersey Department Of Agriculture has come to Rider every so often to eradicate the leaf eating beetle, which controls the Loosestrife and eats any new growth to the lake’s edges.
Trapping pollutants and creating a bigger biodiversity of organisms i.e. crayfish, snails, catfish, snakes and ducks still remain major components of keeping the lake healthy.
Browne declares that “it would be fantastic to dredge the lake and remove excess soil, nutrients, and the dead ‘zombies.’ The reality of that happening, however, is unlikely because the procedure is very costly so small restoration projects occur frequently.”
“We must maintain those edges,” she adds, “They are so important.”
Browne continues to research with students at Rider and influences them to go out and do their own research on mapping the bottom of the lake.
“With the help of Randy, my students and geological faculty many restoration projects have taken place over the years to make sure that the lake continues to be a centerfold for the university,” she states.
“A special landmark on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus is exactly what Centennial Lake is,” says Heather Appleton, a Rider parent who observed the lake at an open house event.
“This lake is beautiful and one of the reasons I insisted my daughter to attend Rider, it could be a peaceful getaway for her when she is overwhelmed with coursework.”
So whether the lake is at its best, or periodically, its worst, all Rider students, faculty, and families should acknowledge the hard work and maintenance that is put into the lake to make it a peaceful sanctuary for all of us, and for all of the organisms that have made Centennial Lake their home.