News that Southern Oregon University students are working with the city to clean the upper duck pond at Lithia Park has the makings of a feel-good, town-and-gown story. When the collective efforts of the university and city can be combined for a common good, the best of being a "college town" results.




Environmental studies majors Calvin Cho, Helena Verduyn and Nicholas Stevenson have presented the city with three potential plans for cleaning the pond. City staff believe one of these three, or perhaps a combination of ideas gleaned from past mistakes coupled with the students' plans, can create a winning formula.




The task at hand, however, is paved with pitfalls, not to mention at least one tremendous crack in the road.




The city's lack of budget dedicated to the project will be something of an obstacle. The students' timeline &

all three are seniors &

doesn't lend itself well to the turtle-like pace of governmental decision-making. That lack of a specific plan &

still being formulated by the students in cooperation with city staff &

suggests a high potential for failure. And let's not forget that virtually anything done in Lithia Park is sure to create intense public scrutiny.




Should all these so-called pitfalls be avoided, the crack is another story. Simply put, the city has tried for years to clean up these ponds. Virtually nothing has worked.




Any plan is going to be met with healthy skepticism because of so many failed attempts.




But that's again why this is such a great idea. Students seeking to put their education to practical use will be given a much broader playing field without the pressure to succeed. The key is keeping costs to a minimum.




Trial and error is part of the educational experience. In this way, nobody has much to lose. Certainly not the students, who will be heroes if they succeed where others have failed; and not the city, which at least gets credit for trying to do something.




Anyone who spent five minutes at the upper duck pond last summer knows how unsightly the split-pea-soup-like water is. It jars people mentally and visually as they wander through the plush gardens of our signature park. It looks even more ridiculous than Lincoln's statue before he was given the newly made bobblehead. The murk is an eyesore that gives the city a black eye, or at least a nasty green one.




Should the students succeed they'd leave school with more than just a diploma, having made a lasting and highly visible contribution to the city. Should they fail in achieving their goal, they will have gained practical experience while adding to the city's base of knowledge as it continues the search for a permanent solution.




With such a positive step we will even resist the temptation to wonder why the city must rely on outside help, once again, to properly maintain its most visible and valued assets. For now, it's enough to see something happening and hope for the very best.