October 7, 2007

Illegal Campers Still Using Islands on Lake Norman: Duke Energy Forbids Night Visits and Fires

By Dan Tierney, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Oct. 7--Jerry Barrows consistently sees the remnants of past illegal visitors to the various islands on Lake Norman.

Fire pits. Hacked-down trees. Fireworks. Bags of trash.

"Some of the islands have been terribly abused," said Barrows, coordinator of the N.C. Wildlife Federation's Island Habitat Program. "It's been a major problem."

On Saturday, volunteers were scheduled to gather trash as part of the annual N.C. Big Sweep. For Lake Norman island adopters, trash gathering is an ongoing process partly due to illegal campers.

By Duke Energy rule, overnight camping, night trespassing and fires are forbidden on the lake's 96 islands. Many continue to camp, proven by the glowing dots of fire on various islands around the lake at night.

"Camp anyway, everyone else does," wrote "Eddie," a poster on LKNFun.com, when someone asked about its legality on Lake Norman last week. "I saw at least six campfires on the island by the (N.C.) 150 bridge the other night."

Barrows said the N.C. Wildlife Federation has worked with Duke and lake enforcement officers about slowing the amount of camping. The adopt-an-island and island habitat programs, he said, have helped the situation, with only six islands still up for adoption.

Illegal campers and other trash dumpers, though, are still making their presence known. Island adopters and volunteers have collected more than 135,000 pounds of garbage since the adoption program started in 2002.

Dan Tierney: 704-987-3670, ext. 33


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