Take one last longing look…..

While I was scrolling through JMU’s Flickr feed looking for a new background photo for the blog, I came across this stunning photo by longtime JMU photographer Diane Elliot (’00). Recent graduates will recognize Newman Lake with the Estes Fountain near its center. This scene, however, has changed — and will change even more over the summer. Plans are in the works for Newman Lake to be reduced by more than half in order to meet state guidelines of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

In the event of flooding, the current culvert system that empties into Siebert’s Creek and runs south parallel to Interstate 81 has been deemed inadequate under current guidelines, meaning it might someday overflow and restrict traffic on I-81. Reducing the size of the lake, the James Madison University Board of Visitors determined, is the most economical and practical solution.

Already, however, from the vantage of Diane’s photograph, the scene is different. The distinctive Wilson Hall cupola is now obscurred by the second stage of the expansion of Bridgeforth Stadium, altering the JMU skyline. Soon trees will begin to bloom; shortly thereafter the lake will shrink.

Newman Lake, named for the family who first owned and sold the land to build the Normal and Industrial School at Harrisonburg, has made a picturesque first impression on students for decades. It has also served as an attractive entrance to the city, as traffic on I-81 is directed to the historic downtown Harrisonburg via Port Republic Road. Many people remember ice skating on Newman Lake before skating was banned and the lake was dredged in the 1970s. Others remember what the scene looked like before any buildings grew up on its banks. No doubt thousands of students made their own memories gazing over the lake. What do you remember?

Although Newman Lake is shrinking, thankfully it is not disappearing, and while JMU’s skyline is changing, it is also being readied to embrace the future. While some change can leave us nostalgic, on a college campus change almost always represents a bold move into the future where new memories, new explorations, new breakthroughs and new challenges are welcomed.

So take one last look and get ready to see what’s next.

Read more about the Newman Lake transformation in a Breeze feature by JMU Be the Change intern Tyler McAvoy (’12). Here’s the link: http://www.breezejmu.org/news/article_fe2dbc88-2438-11e0-8641-00127992bc8b.html

You can also read former Centennial Director Fred Hilton’s (’96M) story about Newman Lake’s picturesque history on the centennial Web site: http://www.jmu.edu/centennialcelebration/newman_lake.shtml

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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