Chuck France/University Relations

Jim Modig, director of Design and Construction Management, displays photos that were part of a time capsule found at the bottom of Potter Lake. Items such as the capsule, a bicycle and hub caps were found during the dredging of the campus lake.

Potter dredging turns up time capsules, trash and treasure

It’s not clear who James, Barb and Alison are, but they took great care to preserve their memories — in the bottom of a lake.

A time capsule with a bottle of wine and photos labeled with the names James, Barb and Alison and a reference to a favorite bartender at G. Willikers was among the unique discoveries when Potter Lake was dredged this year. The group of friends packed the bottle, photos and paper inside a cylindrical tube and dropped it in the lake. The container wasn’t water tight, and the photos were ruined, but the writing on the back survived although no dates are visible.

Jim Modig, director of Design and Construction Management, now has a collection of items pulled from the lake. It was recently dredged to remove excess sedimentation to improve the health of the historic campus pond. Dredging crews found a bicycle, a desk, pieces of chairs and a plastic hubcap beneath the surface.

Eddie Kennington/University Relations

Volunteers remove excess vegetation during ongoing clean up and rehabilitation of the lake.

Work crews also discovered a piece of goal post, but have been unable to pull it out because of excess vegetation.

“Hopefully we’ll have one more piece to add to the collection,” Modig said before the effort to dislodge the goal post.

The Kansas Union has stated interest in putting the piece of post on permanent display.

Undoubtedly, each of the items has a story, though it’s purely speculation what they would be. Modig guesses the bicycle, a kids BMX model, ended up in the pond when kids were ramping into the water, and it got away from one of them. The desk may have been an end-of-the-semester stress release. The hubcap is anyone’s guess.

Modig said he was almost more surprised at what they didn’t find. Several reports have been made over the years of rings lost in the lake. None have turned up yet, but it is still possible such small items could be found in the giant bags the sediment was filtered into. An alum also shared a story of someone who snuck into Strong Hall, grabbed a safe and tossed it in the water. No safe was found though, and the story was likely a tall tale.

The lake was dredged hydraulically, making it unnecessary to completely drain it. The possibility does exist for unfound items to still be resting on the bottom.

It’s not clear how old any of the items pulled from the lake are. However, none of them have been in the pond for more than 50 years. Potter Lake has been drained and dredged only once before in its nearly 100-year life, in 1957.


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