W&M Students Work to Restore Crim Dell Pond Ecosystem

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The Crim Dell is a man-made pond near the College of William & Mary's Sadler Center. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
The Crim Dell is a man-made pond near the College of William & Mary’s Sadler Center. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

One of the most iconic sites at the College of William & Mary is undergoing a major facelift, but the students behind it say the change is for the better.

Students have spent the last year restoring the Crim Dell — a man-made pond located near the center of the William & Mary campus — by removing invasive species like bamboo, English ivy, wisteria and honeysuckle.

The restoration is being led by junior Nick Newberry and sophomore Jesse Smyth, and is one of the college’s annual “green fee” projects, which are environmental initiatives funded by student fees.

The projects were launched in 2008 as a way to increase the college’s engagement with sustainability issues. Newberry and Smyth received $1,285 from the college’s green fees to support their project.

For Newberry, the restoration is an extension of his fascination with the environment and passion for his school.

“The Crim Dell is a very central place on campus,” he said. “All these non-native plants are choking out what could be a beautiful area.”

Linda Morse, who is serving as the faculty advisor for the project, said the invasive plants were introduced to the Crim Dell area in the 1970s in an attempt to create a Japanese-style garden around the pond. The bamboo, ivy and other plants grew unchecked for years, gradually taking over the ecosystem of the site.

“I used to be able to see the Crim Dell bridge from my office,” Morse said. “Now I can’t see it at all.”

In addition to blocking out views of the landscape, Morse said the plants are bad for the Crim Dell ecosystem. Morse said the ivy creeping up many trees around the Crim Dell acts like a “warm blanket,” damaging the trees during Williamsburg’s warm summer months.

Morse, who is a member of the Virginia Master Naturalists, said the group had previously organized Crim Dell cleanups, but the project being led by Newberry and Smyth was taking the restoration a step further — reintroducing native plants to the Crim Dell.

Newberry said the ultimate plan was to replant the area, but that would come after the fall semester.

“First we have to clear the site,” Newberry said. “We have to see what else grows, take some soil samples and find out what’s possible to grow there.”

When the restoration is completed, Newberry said the Crim Dell could have a peaceful atmosphere, which could benefit the college’s mental health situation. He added the project was collaborating with William & Mary’s Health Outreach Peer Educators group to designate the area a mental health refuge.

“There’s a big push for these green spaces to bolster mental health,” Newberry said. “We’d like to make the Crim Dell a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of William & Mary life.”