EL PASO, Texas - Civil engineering students from UTEP presented research to Commissioners Court on Monday with different ways to improve Ascarate Park.
The students began working on their research in September of 2016.
They were tasked with improving the water quality in the lake, protecting against golden algae blooms (which kill off fish); making the park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities act; designing soccer fields and resolving stormwater ponding issues.
"It not only gives them an opportunity to practice what they learn in class, but to improve our community. That's the most important thing," civil engineering professor Ivonne Santiago said. "We are excited about working with El Paso and making our community a better community. Ascarate Lake and Ascarate Park, we want to make it like the Central Park of El Paso."
Santiago and three students broke down their findings to the Commissioners' Court.
One of their suggestions was creating whats called floating island wetlands in the lake. They are small islands composed of local plants which naturally help clean the water. The roots act as a natural source for contaminant and nutrient clean up.
The students concluded that the use of the floating islands, coupled with salinity control and increasing the levels of dissolved oxygen, will help curb the golden algae blooms.
"It's a win-win for us to actually be involved in something that can be use, and for them to have solutions that will work, and to make it better for people to actually enjoy," UTEP master's student Lindsey Larson said.
The students also showed plans for adding seven soccer fields and a new amphitheater near the center of the lake.
The proposed improvements came out to a cost of $1,776,435. County commissioner David Stout, whose precinct includes Ascarate Park, said he was intrigued by the work the students had done.
"I am definitely going to be advocating a number of the solutions, especially the ones that are less expensive that could be done possibly in the operating budget that we've already given to the parks department," Stout said.