So…… I changed my location. Further research resulted in very little information regarding any of Lake Brandt’s history, natural or otherwise, aside from a brief paragraph on the greensboro-nc.gov website. The staff working at Lake Brandt also did not have any information to offer me other than asking “Did you check the website?” So I thought it would be best to pick a different location with more readily available information. The place I am now choosing to discuss is Lake Norman, somewhere I have spent a substantial amount of time in my life, and I know some history of already through personal connections.
Lake Norman is, first and foremost, a human-made lake created for the purpose of installing a hydroelectric dam to generate power for areas in North Carolina and other Southern states (making an acception for Ohio). It is the largest and last of seven lakes in the area created for this purpose, and it is owned by a power company called Duke Energy. Duke Energy, at the time called the Catawba Power Company, started making plans for a hydroelectric dam based out of the Catawba River in the early 1900’s.
The idea for the dam came from William States Lee, an engineer from South Carolina who had worked on the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls. Lee was then given a $50,000 check by James Buchanan Duke to start the company that would become Duke Energy. The first plans for building the dam were introduced in 1957, and so began the process of buying the land in which the lake would eventually reside.
The lake’s secondary purpose has become providing a vacation spot for wealthy North Carolinians, primarily from Charlotte and its surrounding areas. In just my lifetime, an astounding amount of huge homes have been built on and around the shores of Lake Norman. The house my family has always stayed in, though a very reasonable size, seems tiny in comparison. This house is owned by my “Aunt” Paige and her family (no relation). Close friends with my mother since the age of fourteen, my family’s closeness with Paige is the reason I have spent so much time at Lake Norman. Her father bought the lot the house lies on in 1977, after Duke Energy purchased and flooded the almost 32,000 acres worth of homes, farmland, and natural space that once occupied the area.
It follows that as more land is “developed” for affluent vacationer mansions and the necessities they require (groceries, coffee shops, liquor stores, restaurants, etc.) animal habitat and truly natural spaces are lost in the process. I often wonder what the area might have looked like, and what plant and animal species it was home to before Duke Energy purchased the area in the mid 1900’s. However, this does not mean that natural spaces are not to be found. When standing outside the lake house, it is nearly impossible to look in any direction without seeing evidence of human impact. From the giant houses sandwiched on the shore to the very lake itself, it is clear that people have had a huge impact on this area. There are contrived natural spaces close to the house such as the small park across the street, but a slightly more authentic outdoor experience is not too hard to find.