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Those with ‘Lanier’ in their name react to lake’s potential name change
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Lanier Islands Resort is named after Lake Lanier, which surrounds it. - photo by Scott Rogers

Lanier isn’t just the name of the lake that draws 12 million visitors each year and supplies drinking water to the ever-growing Atlanta area.

It’s on street signs and names of businesses, schools and organizations throughout the area, such as the heavily traveled Lanier Islands Parkway, which leads to Lanier Islands resort in South Hall.

Residents “have invested heavily to create an ongoing identity for themselves and the most attractive tourist location in Georgia, and the cost and confusion caused by changing the name would cause a disruptive uproar,” according to a statement this week from Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Others with Lanier in their name are reacting to the federal government looking at changing the name of Lake Lanier and Buford Dam because their names are connected to Confederate soldiers. Even though the effort is on “pause,” the Corps is still accepting suggestions for new names.

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One of many views from Legacy Golf Course at Lanier Islands Resort Wednesday, March 15, 2023. - photo by Scott Rogers

Andrew Clouse, owner of Lula-based Lake Lanier Propeller, a business founded by his father that serves boat dealers and the general public, said “I won’t ever change the name of my business just because they decide to change the name of a lake.”

“I just don’t get it. It’s like everyone is wanting to forget our past. … It’s a whole big issue that doesn’t have to be an issue.”

If the lake changed names, “we would have to change the name of our organization,” said Clyde Morris, a board member with advocacy group Lake Lanier Association. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense.”

The organization was founded in 1966, 10 years after the Army Corps of Engineers completed Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River and the lake started to fill.

“If they absolutely, positively feel compelled legally to change the name or the names of the lake and dam, we’re suggesting they simply drop out the first name ‘Sidney’ and leave Lake Lanier called Lake Lanier,” Morris said.

The lake is officially known as Lake Sidney Lanier, but is commonly referred to as Lake Lanier.

A potential name change “has not been discussed by our board at this point,” said Stacey Dickson, president and CEO of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“I’m sure we would need to consider a name change, but I wouldn’t be able to say whether or not that name would mirror the new lake name or not.”

The issue went haywire last week when the Corps first announced it would “develop and submit a new name for Lake Lanier/Buford Dam for consideration by the Department of the Army.”

The initiative sprang from a federal report that flagged Lake Lanier and Buford Dam as possible candidates for renaming because of the Confederate ties.

Lake Lanier is named after poet Sidney Lanier, who served in the Confederate States Army as a private. Buford Dam is named for the city, the namesake of Lt. Col. Algernon Sidney Buford, who served in the Virginia Militia during the Civil War, the report states.

Sidney Lanier’s ballad “Song of the Chattahoochee,” an ode to the river flowing “out of the hills of Habersham and down through the valleys of Hall,” secured his legacy’s immortality as the man-made lake was named in his honor upon its filling in 1956.

Algernon Buford’s Confederate past isn’t mentioned on the city of Buford’s website, which otherwise describes the Richmond, Va., resident as president of the Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railroad, a lawyer, University of Virginia graduate, Virginia state legislator and “of distinguished Virginian ancestry.”

The Corps later backtracked on the renaming issue, releasing a brief statement late on Friday, March 10, saying it’s “pausing any actions related to project renaming pending further guidance from the Department of the Army.”

But then, it said the public could submit new name suggestions on its website.

In an email to The Times earlier this week, Gene Pawlik, the Corps’ chief of public affairs, said the Corps wasn’t commenting beyond the Friday statement.

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A golfer readies his clubs Wednesday, March 15, 2023, outside the clubhouse at Lanier Islands Legacy Golf Course. - photo by Scott Rogers

Another longtime Lanier presence is Lanier Islands, a South Hall resort formerly known as Lake Lanier Islands.

The resort’s chief operations officer, Grier Todd, also chimed in on the renaming issue this week.

“Lake Lanier has been a cultural, lifestyle and economic driver for North Georgia since its creation in the 1950s,” he said in a statement. “Its name has become synonymous with leisure on the water, and so many businesses and attractions have associated their names and economic identities with Lake Lanier.

“To make such a drastic change will have an extremely negative effect on the entire region."

Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, has said she didn’t want to see the name changed and that the chamber “will look at this and send a statement to officials,” including congressional members.

“We’re going to move ahead with an aggressive campaign — letter writing, emailing, telephone calls,” she said this week.

Several members of Congress have weighed in on the issue, especially U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, whose 9th District includes Hall County and the eastern part of Lake Lanier.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to in the district agrees that this is a terrible idea,” he said in an email.

Pausing the process “is a tremendous victory for Northeast Georgians, as these renamings would have attempted to rewrite history, impose massive burdensome costs on our community and create unnecessary mass confusion.”

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Lanier Islands Resort is named after Lake Lanier, which surrounds it. - photo by Scott Rogers