Date Presented

Spring 5-4-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Laura Henry-Stone

Second Advisor

Thomas Shahady

Third Advisor

Nancy Cowden


Cityscapes in the United States are often viewed dichotomously in regards to natural environments. Preserved sites can be seen as an obstacle to urban development, and the concept of a functioning ecosystem within city limits is fictitious to many; we assume the two cannot coexist. Lynchburg, Virginia’s College Lake offers a unique case study for how urban ecosystems can not only subsist within cities but provide pivotal functions for them as well. With the potential for a dam-breaching storm event increasing in possibility with each passing year, concerns regarding the structural integrity of the College Lake dam in Lynchburg, Virginia have arisen. Such concerns have led the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation to demand action in abating dam breach risk. In response, the City of Lynchburg is considering reinforcement or removal of the dam in order to mitigate these risks for the numerous properties downstream of College Lake. Since its formation following the installation of the Depression-era dam, however, College Lake has developed into an integral part of the Blackwater Creek ecosystem. Decisions regarding the management of this ecosystem are critical in that they determine the City of Lynchburg’s ability to fund infrastructural changes to the dam and to ease the precedent flood concerns that initially gave rise to this issue. In order to effectively inform management policies for College Lake, extensive literature review from ecological and socioeconomic perspectives was conducted. In conjunction with economic models and cost-benefit analyses, the study found that a significant portion of the costs associated with dam removal and watershed management are mitigated by the social benefits that a well-managed urban ecosystem provides. This research highlights the necessity of such strategies in the management of not only the greater College Lake ecosystem but other urban environments across the United States as well.