Look closely and you might see one of UNC Charlotte’s beloved turtles slowly returning to their original sunning spots. Hechenbleikner Lake is about to re-open.
Several years ago, Peter Franz, landscape architect, was pitching the concept of making Hechenbleikner Lake a more "pedestrian friendly" venue; however, funds were not available at that time. Fast forward to 2009 when Facilities Management’s Jeff Ross, an architectural and civil designer, was investigating why the lake was flooding after several days of heavy rain. He discovered a "slope collapse" under Broadrick Boulevard’s sidewalk; its underground overflow pipe was caving in, forcing the lake water to find its own path downstream. Ross immediately directed an engineering group to perform an investigative survey of the area.
It was determined the Broadrick Boulevard section by the lake was in potential danger of collapse and needed immediate attention. Funding was requested to begin preliminary work as soon as possible in early 2010; this was approved, as well as full funding for the entire project later in the year. According to Facilities Management project manager Sherry Ceallaigh, "The permitting process is very regulated and lengthy; it took almost two years to complete, but in December 2011, we were given conditional permission to completely de-water the lake for construction."
Before draining the lake, a firm specializing in wildlife relocation was hired. All of the fish, turtles and other inhabitants were carefully moved to Davis Lake, beside Memorial Hall. Grass was planted inside the drained lake, preventing soil erosion during the new piping installation and re-landscaping process.
During this time, Franz, along with others including Ken Lambla, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture, worked diligently to integrate several pedestrian features, including a new brick sidewalk, benches and a platform overlooking the area.
Located behind the Rowe Arts building, the landscape includes a new Rowe Arts Studio Courtyard, "for mutual benefit since this is one of the primary views of our academic landscape as a visitor enters campus," said Lambla. The area also "provide a platform to place a student sculpture that is an annual award based on a competitive selection process," said Lambla.
So, what’s next? On Nov. 27, the University received NC Dam Safety’s inspection approval to close the main valve, which means the waiting for rainfall begins. It could take a few months to fill the lake; it could take up to a year. It’s all now up to Mother Nature.
In the meantime, take a stroll, eat lunch or just enjoy the beautiful view of the lake. The turtles might even wave hello.
Photo by Brandon Kirkley.