Three Southern Oregon University students are taking on the upper duck pond in Lithia Park, confident that they can banish the perpetual muck that has plagued the water for years.

The trio of senior environmental studies majors began their research last winter and recently presented three different options of varying cost to the Parks and Recreation Commission. They hope to narrow the choices to one by January and start work in early spring.

Despite the legacy of failed attempts to clean up the pond, most recently by local water consultant Paul Kay, the students say they have several advantages over earlier experiments.

"I feel really optimistic about it because we're going about it in a different way than Paul Kay did," Nicholas Stevenson said. "(Kay) was amazed we were able to find common ground between staff and commissioners. We're hoping because we're working with everybody and have the university's resources that we can come up with something."

City workers are scheduled to remove several feet of sediment accumulated over the past 15 years from the bottom of the pond next February, which will also provide a clean slate to work with, an advantage Kay lacked, Stevenson said.

Options the team is considering include a UV filter similar to the system used in the lower pond; an underground pipe to transport water from the Talent Irrigation Ditch to the pond, which can then be used for watering park grass; or a wetland system that would divert water from Ashland Creek to the pond and filter the water before it returns to the creek.

The students are using some of Kay's data collected since 2001, Stevenson said, but they are proposing very different clean-up techniques.

Some of their inspiration comes all the way from Seoul, South Korea, team member Calvin Cho's home country. He studied a $448 million stream restoration project undertaken in the middle of the city, Cho said. Team member Helena Verduyn said their project wouldn't cost nearly as much.

"Our goal is to get as close to everyone pleased as we can, and build a sustainable option that is effective not only now but in the long run," she said.

So far, the city has been pleased with their efforts.

"They're an excellent group, and very dedicated," said Park Superintendent Steve Gies, who has been working with the students. "They've done a nice job. Obviously it's a challenge."

The city is most concerned about cost and effectiveness, he said, and the solution would likely be a combination of the suggestions so far.

"I think no matter what we do, we need to get the pond cleaned up and start over," he said.

At the end of the project, the students want to post signs around the pond to let the community know about the changes and the technology behind it.

"This project is not only to improve the environmental quality but also about community togetherness." Cho said

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