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CARBONDALE — As another summer comes to an end, two things for Campus Lake remain the same — the active presence of wildlife and the serenity it provides.

For the past three summers, Campus Lake, located on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus, has closed because of issues with toxic algae.

In July, university officials announced an initiative to drop lake levels — to expose 20 acres of the shoreline — and allow for the organic material to dry out.

"The lake level is coming down as expected and maybe actually a little quicker than we had anticipated," said Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for finance and administration at SIUC. "We're now somewhere a little over six feet lower in elevation than when we started the process so we got another couple feet to go.

"What we have left is getting to the deeper part of the lake, and there should be plenty of water there to support the aquatic life in the lake along with any wildlife."

As stages into clearing the lake continue, the keenness grows for recreational activities and enjoyment of interactions with some of the wildlife it attracts.

Whether it's for paddle boating or some leisure time by the lake, Campus Lake, according to Randy Burnside, deputy associate provost and associate professor of Political Science at SIUC, is an essential component for those attending the university and members of the community.

"Faculty and staff want Campus Lake up and operational for a variety of reasons," Burnside said. "For me personally, I love Campus Lake because it is where I taught my son how to fish."

Reflecting back to his move to Carbondale in 2005, Burnside said most in the community visited the lake to their interest in fishing or to collect the sights and sounds it produces.    

"There are other members of the larger community that I know who went to Campus Lake to take advantage of the lake as a fishing resource and other people who I know that took advantage of the lake as a walking resource and they enjoyed the wildlife that was associated with the lake itself," he said. 

Last spring, Applied Research Consultants from the university's psychology department conducted a survey for the Physical Plant to note the values of Campus Lake — as well as Thompson Woods — and figure out the best approach to maintain the two.

Out of the 2,131 responses from students, faculty, staff and community members, 69 percent marked their top concerns for the toxic algae, 7 percent for species and vegetation and 3 percent for fishing in the lake. 

"Not surprisingly, there seems to be a high value for both Campus Lake and Thompson Woods as assets that contribute to campus life," Bame said. 

"The survey results will be hopeful as we make decisions going forward."


On Twitter: @SINefeteria

Nefeteria Brewster is a reporter covering Marion and Williamson County.

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