Arcadia Lake
University of Central Oklahoma students carry debris from Arcadia Lake on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (Provided)

A group of University of Central Oklahoma students worked to clean up nearly 350 bags worth of trash and debris from Arcadia Lake at the end of July while learning about issues in the environment.

About 110 students involved in UCO’s Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship program worked for four hours on Saturday, July 27, to pick up trash, move knocked-down trees and gather other debris from the lake.

Jarrett Jobe, UCO vice president of public affairs and leadership said every year the group looks for a service project for incoming freshman and decided that a clean up effort at nearby Arcadia Lake was a great idea.

“Knowing with the flooding and the challenges the lake and lake staff were going through to get Lake Arcadia back up to speed, what better way to help than clean up the beach and other areas they may need,” Jobe said.

Arcadia Lake
More than 300 bags were filled with trash from Arcadia Lake on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (Provided)

Spring floods

Owing to heavy rain in late spring and early summer, Arcadia Lake experienced heavy flooding, causing its closure from mid-May to mid-June said Leon Mixer, Arcadia Lake maintenance supervisor.

Because of the flooding, large amounts of trash and debris flowed into the lake from its large watershed. That created a major environmental problem, which Mixer believes the community should recognize.

“You’ve got Oakdale, and you go to Forest Park, then you go to Britton, you go to Nichols Hills, and you go to Oklahoma City, Bethany and then you go to Warr Acres,” Mixer said. “All of them have got water that runs into Arcadia Lake.”

During periods of flooding, Mixer said water flushes into the lake at about 15,000 to 16,000 cubic-feet-per-second.

“You’ve got a cubic foot that holds 7.48 gallons of water, and that’s per second. So multiply that out,” Mixer said. “That’s a lot of force.”

Mixer said lake staff try to raise awareness of Arcadia’s watershed so people can be more cautious of what they throw from their car windows or what they leave outside near drainage areas.

“For instance, take somebody in their backyard on the 4th of July in Oklahoma City. Of course they’ve got the grill going, smoke coming out of it and all the paper plates and Styrofoam plates and cups,” Mixer said. “Then, all of a sudden, that one rain cloud shows up, and they grab all their drinks and food. The rest of the stuff might get washed off into the tributaries. And then here it comes.”

Helping the environment

Arcadia Lake
University of Central Oklahoma students pick up garbage and debris at Arcadia Lake on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (Provided)

Typically, when efforts are made to help clean up the lake, Mixer said groups normally volunteer about 20 people at a time, picking up two bags per person.

When he learned that 110 students from UCO wanted to make an effort to clean the lake, however, he knew a larger impact could be made.

“It’s greatly appreciated from our end because some of that stuff would probably not be touched,” Mixer said. “Or it would be touched at a later date, and by the time you get to a later date right there, we may have another flood pushing it a little closer to us.”

Ethan Clark, UCO biomedical science junior, said conversations about the environment were had among all of the students during the clean up.

“It was kind of really surprising,” Clark said. “You don’t really realize how much trash can wash up from just a small lake.”

Clark said one of the best takeaways from the day was getting a conversation started about the importance of caring for the environment. He referenced a recent video that received national attention about a straw being found up the nose of a sea turtle.

“It’s kind of been a pretty big social thing about the straws and turtles,” Clark said. “Every time somebody would pick up a straw, they’d say, ‘There’s another turtle.’ And so people were noticing that this was going to make an impact on the environment.”

From when the students arrived at the lake around 9 a.m., Clark said there was a difference in atmosphere when they finished.

“It made you feel better to know that the work you were doing was actually noticeable,” Clark said.

No need for recognition

Jobe said UCO has always had a good relationship with the City of Edmond, so all the university had to do was ask what community needs exist.

“We’re always trying to be great partners in trying to make sure that we can help,” Jobe said. “Not only (to) be a good neighbor here in Edmond, but also (to) help support any initiative and effort that they have.”

Jobe said he tells students that volunteering is not about public perception.

“Service and those types of things aren’t always front-level to where you’re going to be seen doing it,” Jobe said “You’re not going to walk out and 500 people are going to be clapping for you.”

Clark understood the lesson taught about doing service for others.

“No matter how big or small of an impact that you had, as long as you’re making some sort of positive impact then that’s really all that matters,” Clark said. “Because if you can make one person’s day just a little bit better by something you did, then we can all classify that as a success.”

Mixer, however, wants to make sure the students’ effort is recognized.

“I want [to give] a great big thanks from Arcadia Lake staff to these individuals that participated in this,” Mixer said. “Let’s create something positive to work on and let them know that we’re looking for solutions to help with this problem that we have.”

Archiebald Browne is a journalism student at the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He completed an editorial internship at NonDoc during the summer of 2019, served as a staff reporter through the end of 2019 and became Student Editor in January 2020.