Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Jana Morning, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
Ross Bryant, Campus Carrier reporter
Currently, Victory Lake is a swampy marshland that is home to various species of flora and fauna. However, the lake did not always look like it did now. At one point in Berry’s history, it was a fan favorite amongst students as a recreation spot. But in the 1980s, this site changed forever due to a sinkhole.
According to “Berry College: A History” by Ouida Dickey, Kate Macy Ladd granted the college a one-million-dollar endowment in 1929 which helped support several campus projects, one of which included building Victory Lake. This man-made lake was made to commemorate the lives of 11 former Berry students who were killed in World War I.
Not only did the lake provided students with a recreational area, it also gave then a way to spend time together without a chaperone. The novel also states that male students could escort women around Victory Lake on Sunday afternoons. From this, the Victory Lake Paradox was formed. While students did not need a chaperone by the lake, they were needed at other campus events.
The significance of the lake moved beyond just having fun by the water, it helped students build community. So, what happened?
“It was genuinely used like a lake, I mean, they had speedboats on it,” Rachel McLucas, interim director and curator at the Oak Hill Martha Berry Museum, said. “It’s hard to imagine because we see it as a swamp, but it used to be a swamp originally.”
Northwest Georgia has a very karstic landscape which means that the bedrock, the hard rock underneath the surface material, is made up of limestone. According to associate professor of geology, Tamie Jovanelly, this can make an area susceptible to sinkholes since the ground is rich in calcium.
“So, anytime that you have natural acidity introduced into the landscape, it can develop sinkholes in the subsurface,” Jovanelly said. “So, even rainwater is naturally acidic, and you can end up with these caverns that are below the ground and they can become destabilized.”
The quarry, a pit where minerals or other materials are gathered, was located about five miles away. Jovanelly said limestone was drilled at the quarry and around the late 1980s, the quarry began to fill with water. At a certain point, one million gallons of water was being pumped out daily to keep it dry.
“They’re pumping that water from the groundwater table and as they were doing that, the groundwater table became destabilized,” Jovanelly said. “And, essentially, the groundwater table reversed.”
The depth of water below the surface, known as the groundwater table, usually flows from high to low elevation. Since the quarry was located at a higher elevation than the lake, when they began pumping out the water, it eventually reversed the flow of the groundwater table. Jovanelly said this is what caused the sinkholes since the water is now flowing in the reverse direction, low to high. As a result, she said the sinkholes then caused the lack of water and ground collapse.
Berry attempted, several times, to restore Victory Lake, however, it is unlikely that it will be restored to its former glory any time soon. Some obstacles include navigating Environmental Protection Agency laws now that the area has become a wetland environment. Although, Jovanelly mentions that it is not a natural wetland or lake but the permits would protect the natural wildlife that have adapted to the marsh. Even though the landscape has changed, students can still enjoy the ever-changing biodiversity.
“We had an exhibition at the museum a few years ago, called ‘Sanctuary at Berry’ at which we had Gena Flanigen, who’s a local photographer, exhibit wildlife photography to illustrate the biodiversity on Berry’s campus, and we actually highlighted Victory Lake as one of these hotbeds of ecological activity, because of its biodiversity not as a lake, but as a swamp bed.” McLucas said.
Now, students use lake trails for pictures, hiking, running and a place to reflect. In its own way, Victory Lake is still beautiful, even though it does not necessarily serve the same purpose as it used to.
“People are often saying, ‘We need to bring the lake back, we need to bring the lake back,’ but honestly, I think it brings quite a lot to us by simply being what it is,” McLucas said.