Hechenbleikner drained and reconstructed after many years spent in disrepair

| February 28, 2012

The construction site where Hechenbleikner is being drained and redone due to the compromised dam that is affecting the surrounding environment. Photo courtesy of Ciera Choate

Two years ago the draining of Hechenbleikner (hek-in-bl-eye-k-nur) Lake began. The lake was named after Professor Herbert Hechenbleikner (Dr. Heck for short) who orchestrated the creation of the lake in the 60s.

Facilities Management on campus noticed issues that were arising with dam, which made the lake and acted swiftly to avoid the risk of flooding nearby Broadrick Blvd.

“I noticed that the dam was being undermined on the downstream side, so we took action to lower the water level off the dam wall,” said Jeff Ross, Civil Designer at UNC Charlotte.

The first lowering of the water level was done as a temporary fix, serving to decrease the water pressure on the already weak dam.

“The dam was being compromised due to a blocked overflow of the original lake overflow system. The lake does not freely flow downstream. Only if it gets above a certain elevation will it pour into the overflow and flow downstream,” said Ross.

The final draining of the lake was made as the rest of the dam began to deteriorate under the main road into campus.

The lake, located at the front entrance of the university, was not on the original blueprints of the campus. When the school was founded in 1946, the impounded area on which the lake is located was created with it, but not as a lake. According to Ross, the basin was a construction plan designed to help contain storm water runoff.

Dr. Heck, a biology professor that had been with the school since its inception, sought to make the desolate area of land into a beautiful lake. He implored the help of students with knowledge in the use of heavy earth-moving equipment and started the project.

They cleared the lake bed of trees and brush and made the dam, on top of which now lies Broadrick Blvd. With the trees and other vegetation gone from the small valley, water from a nearby inlet quickly filled the area.

“The magic of the water added to the ambience of the campus,” wrote Ken Sanford in his book “Charlotte and UNC Charlotte: Growing Up Together.” Dr. Heck even bought a pair of swans to occupy the lake. Once construction began on the Rowe Building the swans fled the area. Dr. Heck, who would not stand for the loss of his swans, took a plane around the county in an attempt to find them.

He could not, and shortly after the Canadian geese found their way to campus. The takeover was swift.

Although an integral part of this campus and nearly one of the first things visitors see upon their arrival, Heck Lake’s story is poorly known amongst 49ers. It’s not the only story forgotten by students after its genesis. The amnesic quality seems prevalent amongst the students at UNC Charlotte.

“The history of the university needs to be transcribed in one place, like a document or booklet for students to seek out,” said homecoming king and co-founder of Niner Traditions Matt Murrow.

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Category:Campus, News

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