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November 18, 2002

Giving Emory streams a name

By Michael Terrazas

They have fallen—or, more accurately, flowed—underfoot of perhaps every person on campus, yet many people probably don’t even know they exist. They are the natural streams, about a dozen of them, that meander through all corners of Emory’s land, though several are virtually invisible since they have long since been covered by concrete and asphalt.

In the early 20th century when Emory moved to its Atlanta campus, the streams flowed openly and pleasantly through the ravines that separated the system of ridges on which the University’s first buildings were raised. But as Emory grew and more buildings went up, larger and larger portions of the streams disappeared until some seemed to vanish entirely.

But they are still there, even if progress has relegated them to the aesthetic background, and a group of individuals is launching a campaign to bring Emory’s streams back to the forefront of the University’s consciousness, if not its scenery. The sensibly named Stream Naming Committee, a joint project launched by members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Environmental Stewardship and the Friends of Emory Forest, believes the best way to begin doing this is by giving the streams names, since none carries any official identification.

“It very much surprised me that none of them have names nor did they appear on campus maps,” said Tim Bryson, librarian for South Asian and religious studies and chair of the Stream Naming Committee. “These streams are the lifeblood of the ecological systems on campus.”

Launched last spring, the group’s members began by donning their hiking boots and tromping through campus to locate and differentiate between the various streams, which they then incorporated into an existing campus map. With the dozen streams clearly delineated, the committee decided to start with the four most visible ones, which flow:

• through Baker Woodland.

• under the Cox Hall bridge.

• under Peavine Creek Drive at Asbury House.

• into Candler Lake from Starvine Way via the Lullwater driveway.

The committee is soliciting suggestions for stream names from the entire Emory community. Bryson addressed the University Senate’s October meeting on the committee’s plans, and committee members have spread the word through word of mouth and the “campus environmental stewardship” listserv. Suggested names should either carry some cultural or historical significance for Emory or indicate something about the stream’s physical nature.

For example, Bryson said, one possibility for the Baker Woodland stream is “Antoinette’s Creek,” in honor of Bishop and former Emory Chancellor Warren Candler’s wife. Indeed, Baker Woodland itself used to be an open greenspace called “Antoinette Gardens” before it was renamed in 1961.

As far as procedure goes, University Secretary Gary Hauk examined Emory’s bylaws and found that, while the final say for naming the streams belongs to the Board of Trustees, the process by which names could be suggested to the board is entirely up to the community. Hence, the Stream Naming Committee will winnow down the suggestions it receives into a list of finalists, which will be submitted first to the University Senate’s Campus Development Committee, then to the Senate itself, then to the President’s Cabinet and finally to the trustees.

“The closest precedent to this in recent memory was the naming of Starvine Way,” Hauk said, referring to the 3-year-old shuttle road that skirts the edge of Lullwater. “This is a way of engaging the whole campus in conversation and making sure that everyone who wants to have a say about it does have a say about it.”

It’s also a way of raising visibility of Emory’s streams in a more positive way than what happened in September, when a glut of trash in the South Fork Peachtree Creek (which runs through Lullwater) made the pages of both Emory Report and The Wheel. Perhaps, the committee believes, if the streams have names, people will think enough about them to make sure litter and pollution never become a problem in the first place.

“Periodically the stream that runs under Woodruff Library issues forth in a variety of colors: sometimes blue, sometimes white, sometimes green,” said Gerry Lowrey, senior director of campus relations for the Association of Emory Alumni and a committee member. “If a stream actually has a name, there’s more of a connection that allows people to understand that we need to do a better job of protecting it.”

The Stream Naming Committee has posted a campus map identifying the streams, naming conventions from the U.S. Board on Domestic Geographic Names and guidelines for submitting name suggestions at

Suggestions for the first four streams should be sent by Jan. 6. For more information, contact Bryson at 404-727-1277 or