February 25, 2018  

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Historic Lake Byron at Southern Miss Undergoing Major Transformation

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Work is underway at The University of Southern Mississippi to expand and upgrade historic Lake Byron on the Hattiesburg campus. (University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

This won’t be your mother’s Lake Byron. Or your grandmother’s, for that matter.

When major upgrades are completed on The University of Southern Mississippi’s popular landmark this summer, Lake Byron will be more accessible, more attractive, more appealing than at any time during its 80-year history.

The lake has been drained to allow for expansion and other construction objectives as part of Phase III of the University’s Front Campus Landscape Restoration and Enhancement Plan. The plan was unveiled last April just two months after a tornado devastated the front part of the Hattiesburg campus.

“Recognizing the many memories that have been made in this area, much thought and planning has gone into preserving the historic look, with enhancements that will keep the lake functional for generations to come,” said Dr. Chris Crenshaw, assistant vice president for facilities management and planning.

Original construction on Lake Byron was completed in 1934 as a memorial gift from that year’s senior class. The lake is named for Dr. Byron E. Green, a local veterinarian and then-president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. Green was instrumental in securing federal relief funds for use in constructing the lake.

Current upgrades include the following:

  • Perimeter expanded to add aquatic shelves that will provide a habitat for smaller fish and to allow the lake to maintain biodiversity
  • An aerating fountain added to provide oxygen to the lake and curb the growth of algae
  • Sections of bulkhead will be added to support slumping areas of the outer edges of the bank that were too steeply angled
  • Improvements will be made to the spillway to increase storm water retention
  • Selected tree species, most native to Mississippi, will be planted around the lake to create an arboretum effect. The trees will be labeled and used by various departments on campus for educational purposes
  • Additional LED ground lighting will be positioned along the sidewalks surrounding the lake for a subdued effect

Also, the University’s Physical Plant is working with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to design a new bridge that will preserve the historic look of the old structure, yet bring it into compliance with current ADA and OSHA standards. The lake’s picturesque island will remain intact.

Recent drainage has produced some interesting discoveries, including a realization that the lake has actually gotten deeper over time from its original depth of four-to-five feet. A sand lining has been added to provide a smooth surface to the bottom, bringing the new depth to five-to-six feet.

What’s the most unusual items recovered from the lake’s bottom? Try a decades-old boy bicycle and a barbeque grill.

Crenshaw points out that a top priority during the renovation/construction process has been establishing upgrades that will benefit not only the University but Hattiesburg and the surrounding community.

“We are striving to be good neighbors by making improvements to the storm water retention system,” he said. “The renovated spillway will assist with storm water run-off for the entire campus, which will help keep the City of Hattiesburg system from being overwhelmed during a heavy storm.”

To learn more about the Front Campus Landscape Restoration and Enhancement Plan, visit: http://www.usm.edu/physical-plant/front-campus-landscape-restoration-and-enhancement-plan