Lake Norman & Mooresville

Adopt a lake island; build a living legacy

Johnny Depp's got one. So do celebrity millionaires Leonardo DiCaprio and Celine Dion.

Terrell resident Eugene Fernandez is just your average working man.

No need for his own private island, but he sure would like to adopt one.

Fernandez, 32, and the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists' Island Habitat Program appear to be a good match.

The Fernandez family was out doing what they always do on weekends: island-hopping through a typical Saturday afternoon, boating throughout Lake Norman near the N.C. 150 bridge via their pontoon boat.

"These are the islands we go to all the time," said Fernandez, a shop supervisor with Liburdi Turbine Services in Mooreville.

Family favorites include what they call, "The island across from The White Owl Tavern" and "The island with the BIG beach."

"Or at least that's what the kids call it," said Fernandez, father of five girls, ages 5 to 14.

Fernandez and his family are a rare find for Jill and Jim Feldmeyer, organizers of the LNWC's Island Habitat Program.

Volunteers have to have their own boat and a couple of hours a week to monitor one of Lake Norman and the Catawba River Basin's 96 islands.

Volunteers observe and report on "their" island's wildlife habitat, said Jill Feldmeyer, who lives in Terrell.

"We have 56 islands that need to be adopted. You're in charge of that isle. Are there any fires? Are people chopping wood?" said Jill Feldmeyer.

Volunteers also help by picking up trash and monitoring existing and new vegetation.

The LNWC typically has a trash clean-up in October at the end of the Lake Norman water recreation season. The organization also oversees projects including planting water willow and building nesting and basking stands.

"There's not a whole lot of time involved. Really it's just policing, every once in awhile checking on things," said Jill Feldmeyer.

Volunteers also are required to become members of the LNWC.

The Feldmeyers took on heading the Island Habitat Program after the previous coordinator, Jerry Barrows, died two years ago.

The couple had founded their own chapter of the international Save Our Lake Organization (SOLO) a decade ago and realized that taking over for where Barrows' had left off was a perfect fit.

"After (Barrows) passed it went into a no-activity mode, no one was spear-heading the island program and our involvement just kind of grew out of what we were already doing with the community and SOLO," said Jim Feldmeyer.

But the Feldmeyers real motivation hits close to home.

"We've got two boys and we wanted to instill in them the idea of 'giving back' to our community and to the world at-large. That's the most important thing behind all of this: to pass it down through the generations," said Jim Feldmeyer.

Fernandez, while his girls dart through ankle deep water and dig in sand, blazes a trail through to the small island's center, surveying the shore line for tattered boating accessories and trash.

"You'd be amazed what you find and how far in you find it. I always thought maybe Duke Power paid a clean-up crew or something," said Fernandez, who lives on N.C. 150 near the Marshall Steam Station.

Fernandez is glad to discover an organization that parallels what he and his family already like to do.

Stumbling across an organization like LNWC's Island Habitat Program, as Fernandez did at the Sherrill's Ford Library when the Feldmeyers were hosting a monthly meeting, fits right in with the family's weekly boating routine.

"I've just always picked up trash. We're here. We might as well help clean up," said Fernandez.