Joey Marshall and Lisa Swinehart are self-described “lake people.”
They live in a Mooresville lake community and they can reach Lake Norman’s water after about a 200-foot walk from their house.
Marshall and Swinehart love frequenting the restaurants along the lake’s southern shore. They enjoy navigating the waters on a lazy Sunday afternoon in their pontoon boat and taking out the bass boat for fishing tournaments.
So when it comes to keeping Lake Norman clean for themselves and all who enjoy it, Marshall and Swinehart have no problem doing their part. They participate in the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists’ Adopt an Island program.
The local nonprofit, whose vision is “to protect and enhance the natural resources and wildlife habitats of the greater Lake Norman area” recently kick-started the program after its momentum petered out several years ago.
Gene Vaughan, the group’s Island Habitat Committee co-chairman, said about 45 people attended an interest meeting Feb. 4 at the Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Department. Vaughan and co-chairman John Crutchfield are spearheading the efforts to keep Lake Norman’s islands free of trash and debris and to help their natural inhabitants live safely.
Vaughan, a retired Duke Energy scientist, says there are about 70 to 80 islands throughout the 32,510-acre lake. None of them are inhabited by humans, but some are open to recreation during daylight hours.
The islands are informally named only by the simple identification system Duke Energy employed decades ago. In the southern portion of the lake, islands start off being labeled as N1, N2, etc. and increase in number moving north.
There are a handful of islands that have affectionate nicknames like Goat Island and Whale Island, but most remain in anonymity.
To the best of his recollection, Marshall says he and Swinehart’s islands are N17 and N20. He says they swing by, maybe with some friends, a few times a year.
“We pick up trash, aluminum cans, beer bottles, tires … whatever floats up on the island. The small debris you can put in a bag and put it in your boat. If it’s large debris, you can call up the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists and they will go get it for you.”
Marshall participated in the Adopt an Island program when the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists created it about five years ago. Marshall and Vaughan agree the program disappeared because of a lack of communication and organization on the part of the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists.
“Some of the (islands) are of little consequence,” said Vaughan. “The ones that are, we are adopting them out. The islands are also special habitats to birds like osprey, eagles, brown-headed nuthatches, and others. We are putting up habitat boxes to help the birds out with nesting sites around the lake.”
Vaughan says that individuals and groups are welcome to join. Some civic groups that have participated include Boy Scout troops, The Peninsula Club and the Cornelius Police Department.
While Marshall adopts islands as an individual, he also is a charter member of the Lake Norman Delta Waterfowl chapter, which also sponsors a couple islands in the northern part of the lake. Delta Waterfowl is national nonprofit organization specifically interested in “conserving waterfowl and securing the future for waterfowl hunting.”
“Delta Waterfowl feels like the islands and all parts of the lake are huge to recreation, whether it’s fishing or hunting or just relaxing on a Sunday afternoon,” said Marshall. “If we don’t take care of these islands, the generation behind us won’t get to enjoy the things we’re doing now.”
Vaughan says that the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, which is a chapter of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, will continue to organize its Adopt an Island troops in the coming months, ahead of the lake’s recreational season.
He stressed the program is open to everybody, whether they live on the lake or not, and whether they have their own boats to travel to the islands. Vaughan added that a supporter without a boat can be paired with another participant who does have boat access.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Email Gene Vaughan at firstname.lastname@example.org.