When boaters pull ashore onto the sandy beach of a Lake Norman island, they expect to find the kind of tranquility that can only be created by nature. A turtle warming in the noon sun. Little nuthatches flitting in the island woods. The smooth glide of Wood ducks off shore.
Instead, they're often greeted by car batteries, tires, cans, even old couches.
Trash left by picnickers or dumped overboard and washed ashore leads to devastation for the animals who call the islands home.
But Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, based in Mooresville, helps clean up the clutter: It's one of the many ways to help keep wildlife from dying off. The group is one of those featured in The Charlotte Observer's annual Giving Guide.
Volunteers can adopt an island through The Island Habitat Program, a joint venture Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists began in 2005 with Duke Energy and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
James Feldmeyer, who heads up the island habitat committee, said it's a great opportunity for Boy Scout troops, businesses, families, church groups, or anyone who wants to give back to the lake.
Just a few hours of your time and a few trash bags is usually all it takes. There's an island size for every preference.
"Most of them are sandy," said Feldmeyer. "Some of them are very heavily wooded."
Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists will even help volunteers without access to a boat reach their adopted island.
"There's usually no trouble finding rides out to the island," said Feldmeyer.
Feldmeyer has seen everything from boxes of grits to 250- pound tire rims.
"I always wonder, how do tires on rims get out there to an island?" He suspects such items are intentionally dumped.
Like modern explorers, volunteers are asked to write a report after each visit, detailing how much trash was picked up, the wildlife on the island, and any changes they've seen since past visits. Volunteers can police their islands as much or as little as they like, and can even erect a sign to show they are its adopters.
"It's good press if it's a company or organization," he said.
Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists began in 2007 to provide education, appreciation, and conservation of the area's wildlife. The organization has 500 people involved, and serves all counties and cities around Lake Norman. It's a local chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, which began in 1945.
Many other volunteer opportunities exist through Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, and much-needed monetary donations go to fund a wide range of other projects and programs sponsored by the organization.