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$25K to clean up Mirror Lake’s reflection

Cody Cousino/ Photo editor

As students enjoy the annual tradition of jumping into Mirror Lake the week of the Ohio State-Michigan game, it comes at a cost to the university.

OSU Landscape Services and Facilities Operations and Development paid nearly $25,000 to clean the area and repair and fix damages from the jump.

The sidewalks around Mirror Lake were covered in mud, trash, flip-flops and other articles left behind by students. The landscape that once was green grass is now dark mud with thousands of footprints marking spectators and jumpers present late Tuesday night.

“The volume of cleanup was pretty significant (and) the damage to the ground was significant,” said Paul Walsh, interim assistant director for Landscape Services.

The Mirror Lake jump is an annual tradition where students jump into Mirror Lake to show support for the football team the week of the OSU-Michigan game. Students traditionally jumped into Mirror Lake the Thursday before the football game. However in recent years, the game has been the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so students then pushed the jump to the Tuesday before the game.

Despite the university discouraging students to jump, students continue the tradition year after year. This year, the jump caused $19,000 worth of damage to the grass and landscaping around the lake. The university pays an additional $6,000 to employees annually to clean the area and restore the landscape, Walsh said.

This year was one of the worst for the jump.

“I have only been here for four years. People who have been working here 10 or 15 years said that they have never seen (Mirror Lake) as bad as it was,” Walsh said. “This was the worst mess ever.”

Nine employees started cleaning up the sidewalks and area around 7 a.m. Nov. 23 by picking up trash and belongings left behind. Due to the holiday, Mirror Lake was not officially cleaned up until the Monday after Thanksgiving, Walsh said.

Now, Landscape Services must focus on restoring the area.

“We have the clean-up part, but we still have the restoration part. We can clean up the trash, and the junk, and the clothes, and the flip-flops, and get the sidewalks cleaned up from all the mud. But there is still a significant amount of work to be done to restore the landscape itself,” Walsh said.

Walsh said much of the grass area near the lake, is shredded from students trampling on it. Plants on the planting beds were destroyed as well. The sod needs repairing and much of the restoration cannot be done until the spring. Similar to last year, OSU is leasing a contractor to fix the turf around the area.

As the jump occurs at the end of November, the weather is typically around freezing. It has even snowed in years past. This year before the jump, Tuesday’s weather consisted of rain and warmer weather, which can also affect the area around Mirror Lake.

“Rain causes the ground to be softer, so as we get more people on soft ground, that can create damage. Temperature also has something to do with it because people weren’t leaving,” Walsh said. “In a lot of the other years, it’s been so cold that people just come down, jump in and leave. But a lot of them were not leaving. They were in the mud and in the turf areas creating more mud.”

This year for the first time in the past few years, there was no damage to the sidewalks or the stone walls bordering Mirror Lake, Walsh said.

OSU’s Landscape Services prevents damage to Mirror Lake by removing the fountains in the lake and the aerator in the west end of the lake. The aerator was reinstalled on Thursday but the fountains will not be reinstalled until spring, Walsh said.

Ohio State Police cleared Mirror Lake around 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 23 and the area was left a mess as students went home wet and covered and mud, dragging home dirt and grime from the scene. The Office of Student Life paid three additional housekeepers overtime to clean the dorms and the Ohio Union, said Ruth Gerstner, director of communication for student life.

About 100 personnel and employees from Student Life, paid by salary, volunteered to work Mirror Lake night, eliminating additional cost to the university, Gerstner said.

Walsh, a 1985 OSU graduate in natural resources, loves the campus and OSU, but dislikes the Mirror Lake tradition.

“I really want our campus to look as nice as we can possibly get it. And when we have events like this, it makes it really difficult to keep our campus looking nice because we have to spend money to make these repairs,” Walsh said. “It’s difficult to see the damage.”

Many students do not realize how much the tradition costs the university or how much it can damage the campus.

Emily Svetlak, a third-year in Arabic, was surprised to hear about the damage.

“That’s really unbelievable. I didn’t know any damage was done and I certainly didn’t think it was that much money,” Svetlak said.

Brandon Myers, a fourth-year in political science and criminology, was surprised too.

“I didn’t know it was that much,” Myers said. “It is a well-established tradition and thousands of students jump, so it won’t stop it.”

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