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Environmental Action Around Lake Norman

Non-profit organizations play a pivotal role in addressing environmental problems around Lake Norman; they fill the gaps of government and private sector efforts. Through fostering relationships among community members, academic experts, and government officials, non-profits provide important services and programs. But, what were the concerns or the events of the past that led to local community action around Lake Norman? Our research seeks to find trends in environmental concerns and social action from 1963-present around Lake Norman. Through our investigation, we looked to explore the following questions:

  • What were the main environmental concerns in the first half of Lake Norman’s History? Did these concerns vary by decade? How did the concerns evolve into organized community action?
  • How do non-profits serve Lake Norman today? How do these organizations address the environmental concerns that developed over time?

Three images: arial view of dam under construction, view of lake from top of dam, volunteers on clean up day

Historical Timeline: Tracking Environmental Action

To find trends in environmental concerns and non-profit developments from 1963-present around Lake Norman, we turned to archival research. We read weekly issues of The Mecklenburg Gazette  beginning in 1963 and following with every even-numbered year until 1988. We photograph and cataloged articles related to social or environmental concerns and events. Below is a timeline of our findings. The timeline covers the first 25 years of Lake Norman’s existence. Each entry was categorized as either a concern (publication highlighting a local environmental concern directly or indirectly related to Lake Norman) or event (publication highlighting an event that affected the Lake Norman environment or exhibited community action). We used this timeline to explore the relationships between concerns and community events across three decades.

Discussion of Historical Trends


While there were few concerns over the construction of Lake Norman, the Gazette ran many articles expressing concern in the first five years after the Lake’s Construction. Most of these concerns centered on human safety around the lake. These concerns were spurred due to accidents around the lake and a few drowning incidents. Not long after the lake was created, the articles also demonstrated a concern about a shortage in the water supply, the management of wildlife (particularly fish), and the temperature of the water.


The variety and frequency of articles relaying environmental concerns increased dramatically during the 1970s. In addition to continued concern over human safety and wildlife management, new concerns such as pollution, energy costs, nuclear energy, beatification,  and new damming projects emerged. Of these concerns, nuclear energy was the most marked concern. The concerns over town beautification led to initiatives like litter pickups. Interest in recycling programs also developed.


The concerns of the 1960s and 1970s carried over into the 1980s. Additionally, the frequency of articles expressing these concerns increased substantially, with the possible exception of nuclear energy, which was mentioned less frequently. In this decade, these concerns are beginning to evolve into action. In this decade, Huntersville begins its recycling program–becoming the second largest recycling program in the state of North Carolina. Numerous articles ran in the paper encouraging citizens to recycle. Announcements for fundraisers and events hosted by non-profits such as Ducks Unlimited and the Carolina Raptor Center also emerge.

Non-profits Serving Lake Norman Today

Today, a number of non-profits work to address environmental concerns related directly to Lake Norman. Below we highlight four non-profit organizations. We interviewed representatives from Save Our Lake Organization, Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, and Ducks Unlimited to learn more about the organizations’ missions and goals. Click on the following logos to access more information about current projects.

Logo of organization

Catawba Riverkeeper logo. Source: http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/.


Logo of Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited logo. Source: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/imager/ducks-unlimited-oyster-roast/b/original/3120957/8942/ducksunlimited.jpg


Logo of conservations organization

Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationist logo. Source: http://www.lakenormanwildlife.org.


Logo of Save Our Lake organization

Save Our Lake Organization logo. Source: http://saveourlakeorganization.org/.



  • (1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988). The Mecklenburg Gazette.
  • 676287e3-f3fa-4a97-8c68-66912f10b54c.JPG (PNG Image, 700 × 525 pixels). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.huntersvilleherald.com/Images/Articles/Primary/Resized/676287e3-f3fa-4a97-8c68-66912f10b54c.JPG
  • Cowans-ford-dam-pic-1-03_08_1962crop_event-image.jpg (JPEG Image, 551 × 431 pixels). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dukenuclear.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/cowans-ford-dam-pic-1-03_08_1962crop_event-image.jpg
  • Volunteers of Save Our Lake Organization Clean Up Lake Norman. (JPEG Image). (2014). Retrieved from Jackson Feldmeyer.