Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pine Lake Tour of Homes, Sunday, May 1, 1-6 pm

See the Inside of Pine Lake's Homes!
Photo by Claude Sutton

Now's the time for those who don't live in Pine Lake to come see what living here is really like and for those who do live here to snoop in their neighbors' houses!

Yes, the 2nd Annual Pine Lake Tour of Homes is tomorrow, May 1, from 1-6 pm. Tickets are $15 and support in their entirety arts in the city.

Click MORE, below, for details.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Vientos del Pueblo

One of my favorite musical groups is Atlanta's Vientos del Pueblo, an ensemble of variable numbers that plays original songs infused with Andean and other South American beats, rhythms, and passions:
Vientos del Pueblo performs music that represents a fusion of cultures and rhythms combining African, European and American Indigenous roots. Featuring the quena, charango, bombo, guitars and bass, among others, the music of Vientos Del Pueblo is an experience not to be missed.  Performing credits include: Many Colleges, Universities, Festivals and Cultural Events throughout the Southeast; The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, The Fernbank Museum of Natural History, The Atlanta Botanical Gardens, The Atlanta Zoo, Callanwolde, First Night Atlanta, PBS, CNN, and many more.

Reflections on Three Lakes

Swimming Area in Mountain Park's Lake Garret, 1950s
The Beach is Now Gone Due to Sedimentation

I hope I've not worn folks out with my posts on Mountain Park. I have just this one more to do-- my analysis.

The towns of Mountain Park and Pine Lake, 40 miles from one another and both in the Metropolitan Atlanta area, were created in, respectively, the 1920s and 1930s, and so were their lakes (Mountain Park has a second lake that was created in the 1950s).

Both towns are tiny incorporated cities surrounded by suburbia run amok.Both are retro idyllic community filled with trees, wildlife, and quirky, passionate people who love their lakes.

And both have aging lakes that have been shallowed by sedimentation.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Photos of Mountain Park

Photos of Mountain Park are hard to find on the interwebs-- that's because searches on almost any engine pull up Stone Mountain Park.

Yesterday I found the Mountain Park Life website and made an account. There, I found some nice pictures that will give my readers an idea of what our sister city in North Fulton County looks like. Click MORE, below, to see them.

Paul Kaplan: Serenity's Last Gasps. AJC, 1-31-2005

Click on Images to enlarge

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mountain Park

If Pine Lake has a sister city it would be Mountain Park in North Fulton County.

Mountain Park was incorporated in 1927 as a retreat for Atlanta's wealthiest citizens (everyone else looking for a watery escape in those pre-TVA lake days had to wait, I suppose, for Pine Lake to come along). As happened in Pine Lake (which was founded nine years after Mountain Park), families slowly began to live in the city year-round. Over the years the city got electricity, water, and sewer services and the homes became larger.

In 1952 the lake that was the center of Mountain Park (Lake Garret) was supplemented by Lake Cherful, which was created by flooding a cornfield. Cherful's name came about because of its location on the border of Fulton and Cherokee Counties (a small portion of Mountain Park lies in Cherokee).

Mountain Park and Pine Lake are in many ways similar. Like Pine Lake, Mountain Park is incorporated, and each has its own government, with a mayor and city council. Both have small populations (Mountain Park about 500, Pine Lake about 800). Both are wildlife refuges. Both have recycling programs. Both have civic buildings which can be leased. Both have a Lakeshore Drive And both have streets named for trees: Magnolia, Oak, Hemlock, Spruce, Pine, Olive. Both are little oases surrounded by suburban residential mundancity.

But there's a difference. While runoff has been minimal in Pine Lake, with the waters remaining reasonably healthy, heavy residential and commercial development in areas surrounding Mountain Park have resulted in the loss of most of Lake Garret. Much of Garret is now  by the 1970s (loss of Lake Cherful is impending). The sand-bottomed swimming area in Garret was converted to a concrete pool and the remainder of the area that had once been the lake was turned into a village green. Lake Garret is also being destroyed by runoff.

In 2005, Mountain Park sued developers over the runoff. The developers claimed the runoff was natural and said the lakes would have filled with silt under any circumstances. The city won its lawsuit in 2010, but received less than $50,000 in damages, far less than it had spent, angering its citizens.

Here's a Google Earth image of Mountain Park:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fulton County

To set up the blogpost that will follow, this post is about Fulton County-- and specifically about its peculiar shape.

Fulton was created from the western portion of Dekalb County in 1953. It was small in size, between 1/3 and 1/4 Dekalb's size.

In the hard times of the Great Depression, Campbell County to Fulton's southwest and Milton County to the northeast were annexed, giving Fulton its present oblong shape. Cobb County ceded land to Fulton to make the southern portion contiguous with the northern. Today Fulton is more than 80 miles long, with the Chattahoochie River running from through it end-to-end in a southwesternly direction.

If you look at the map above, you can make out these three portions of Fulton County: South, Central, and North.

Today the original Fulton County is urban, containing the bulk of the city of Atlanta (about 10% of Atlanta lies in Dekalb). The southernmost portion of Fulton is surprisingly rural, or was about ten years ago when I went with other Pine Lakers to visit a nursery there. As soon as we left I-285 for South Fulton Parkway, we were in the woods.

The northern portion of Fulton County is upscale and suburban, a land of McMansions. Many white upper middle class residents there resent their political and financial linkage with central Fulton, and since 2005 two new cities have been formed by voter referendum specifically to assert their independence: Sandy Springs and Chattahoochie Hills.

In my next post I'll be writing about a community in North Fulton that's very much like Pine Lake: tiny Mountain Park.


Here's a charming cottage in England. I came across it while puttering about on the internet. It's beyond cool.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Little House in Pine Lake: Finis

My house has been a delight for me for twelve and a half years now. I love its quirks, I respect its age, and I'm grateful for its placement just feet from the beach at the lake. I was happy to tell its story.

So far as I know my house is the last in Pine Lake to sit on an original 20-foot lot. That's right, it pretty much fills the property. I'd be interested to hear if perhaps there's another.

I'd like to hear from people who would like to tell the stories of their own homes in Pine Lake, and I would be happy to publish photos from my readers on any Pine Lake-related subject. If you don't have photos, whistle, and I'll take some for you.. Just e-mail queries or photos to

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 7 of 7: The Louisa May Alcove

The capped well in the front yard was an eyesore. I bricked it, but still didn't like it. What the space really needed was a gazebo.

I knew I had the skills and tools to build one, although an eight-sided roof seemed daunting. I bought a couple of books on yard structures from Lowe's and used them to get ideas. I scanned the designs I liked and e-mailed them to my friend Sandra and we discussed their pros and cons.

We finally settled on a plan, like so. Sandra named it the Louisa May Alcove:

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 6 of 7: Inside

Here are some shots of the inside of my house. Look below the photos for probably boring descriptions of my past and planned home improvement projects.

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 5 of 7: Outside

Between 1999 and 2006 I had a second job as editor of a magazine for a national nonprofit organization. Happily, it paid enough to allow me to finance a hundred projects to furnish, update, and beautify my little house.

I regret that I didn't document with photos the state of the house when I moved in and take photos of my many home improvement projects. Sadly, I don't have many before pictures. But I do have a couple.

Above is the rear of the house, north side. Note the tilted sunken-into-the-ground concrete steps and the lack of a door on the shed. And isn't that an attractive stump?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 4 of 7: My Friend Sandra

Before I  closed on my house I kidnapped my friend Sandra Cole from a conference in downtown Atlanta and took her to Pine Lake to see it. Sandra is blessed with impeccable taste and good judgement, and thank goodness for that! When I told her I had always fancied a Southwestern house, she gently helped me understand this house wanted to be just what it was-- a little lake cottage dating from the 1930s. And that's what we set out to make it.

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 3 of 7: Shabby Lady

When I bought my house in 1985 it had been rented for more than decade. Here are two interior photos taken during the rental period:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part 2 of 7: A Short History

My house began life in 1936 as a modest one-room brown-and-white cabin with outdoor plumbing and a well. It sat on an original Pine Lake lot 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep. The lot cost $69.50.

Most likely no photos from the early days survive, but the snapshot above pretty much lets the viewer imagine the square little box my house once was. In this photo, taken in the 1960s or 1970s, a pine tree has grown so close to the house the front screen door wouldn't open fully..

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Little House in Pine Lake: Part I of 7: The House Beckons

Here's my little house on Pine Drive in Pine Lake.

It was 1998. I was driving around with a friend who was ready to sell her condo in Avondale and buy a house. I had no particular notion of buying a home. We looked here and there in Dekalb, and then one day I suggested we try Pine Lake. I had only a vague notion of the town, having driven once around the lake nearly ten years earlier.

When we arrived, we found the city charming. Pine Lake, which had been run-down in the early 90s, was gentrifying, and house prices were up-- but still within reason. My friend considered a number of homes, but eventually decided on a large house that abuts a little lake on Elam Road, barely a mile from the city.

I liked the houses that were for sale, but one in particular appealed to me. We called the number on the sign in the front yard and talked to Warren Akins, the husband of owner Janelle. Warren told us to go around back to the shed and lift the sponge there and get the key and take a look around and call him back if we were interested. I loved that! I went into the shed and sure enough, there was the key.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Houses and Cottages and Cabins

Here are some more Pine Lake homes.


The front door of my house faces east and I often open the door to the sun.

On Saturday morning I looked out and saw a pale blue hummingbird. It hovered for nearly a minute, ranging up and down the glass storm door, before it flew away.

My camera was just feet away, but I didn't want to move.

So I didn't get a photo, but I do have a picture to share with you.

I call it "The Aggressive Hummingbird Knocks Sweetie From the Platform While Chey Watches in Horror," and it will need a word of explanation.

First, that hummer really is aggressive. He will bump your avatar in a New York minute. Second, Sweetie is a pseudonym for the avatar name of my girlfriend, who for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend wishes to disguise her real fictional name. It may be because of the incident at the airport. Third, we staged the photo on our beautiful tropical archipelago in the virtual world Second Life, where you can do pretty much anything you can do in real life, and a lot more besides.

Finally, Chey is my avatar. She's the figure in the background.

Second Life is free to join. Go here if you're interested, or here to read my long-running blog about the ongoing adventures of Cheyenne and Sweetie and Whimsy, our beautiful and dangerous tropical home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Forrest Drive

One of Pine Lake's roads is named Forrest-- but after whom, or for what?

Were the name Forest, with one R, it would fit with the themed tree names of the streets on the south side of the lake: Spruce, Pine, Oak, Magnolia, Hemlock, Dogwood. But it has two Rs, so unless it was misspelled seventy-five years ago it was most likely named after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

As a military leader, Forrest was brilliant, but his reputation is stained-- first by what many historians consider a massacre of black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, in Tennessee-- and second by his role in the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and in particular his instigation of and participation in "midnight parades, ‘ghost’ masquerades, and ‘whipping’ and even ‘killing Negro voters and white Republicans, to scare blacks off voting and running for office." *

Throughout the South schools, parks, assorted monuments, a city in Arkansas, and even a national forest were named for Forrest, a tradition that continued well into the twentieth century. 

So is Pine Lake's Forrest Road named in honor of Nathan Bedford Forest? I'm not sure there's a definitive answer, but certainly there seems to be no place or other person of that name who would remotely qualify for the honor of a street-naming in a tiny town in north Georgia in the mid 1930s.

I'm not saying one of our streets is definitely named after Nathan Bedford Forrest or suggesting the name be changed. I'm just saying the road was most likely named in Forrest's honor.

Andrew Ward, River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 386.

Lake Project FAQ

The city has released a FAQ about the dredging of the lake. You'll find it beneath the fold.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yet More April Foliage

Snapfinger Creek Bed Visible in Lake on Google Earth

When our beautiful little lake was made in the 1930s, Snapfinger Creek fed directly in at the east side of the lake. At some point (I'm not sure of the decade, more about this soon) the city made a berm at the back side of the lake and re-routed the creek to its present location.

Yesterday City Manager Phil Howland told me the original channel of the creek is visible when using Google Earth.

Sure enough...

Trail Trumps Ramps: Matt's Good Idea

On Friday, while hurrying home to avoid the impending rain, I ran into four-year Pine Lake resident and handyman to many of us Matthew Pulsts.

The rain held off while Matt and I talked about this and that, and eventually about the lack of accessibility to the playground at the beach.

Take a look at the playground the next time you walk or drive past, or just study the second picture below and you'll see the playground is several feet lower than Lakeshore Drive. To reach the playground it's necessary to climb over the green-and-white concrete brick wall at the edge of Lakeshore Drive or enter via the ramp near the clubhouse and walk or roll 150 feet or so along a path.

This ramp at the west side of the beach house
provides access to the beach and playground

The playground lies at the end of this path


Every fall I spend a week in Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, in Masschusetts. Provincetown has a well-deserved reputation as the least accessible town in America. It's filled with houses built hundreds of years ago, and there are steps everywhere. It's a great place, but probably not so much for those who are physically disabled.

Provincetown is charming, but curbs and stairs are everywhere.
A rare ramp can be seen in this photo.

Want to know something wonderful about our wilderness areas? They're entirely accessible.Despite the hilly nature of our city, the paths are level and smooth and the small size of the gravel makes it relatively easy for people using wheelchairs.

There's one amenity that's not readily accessible, however: the playground at the beach.

In my next post I'll talk about Matt Pulsts' idea to make the playground accessible.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Faithful readers may have noticed the water level in the lake hasn't lowered in the past week and more. That's because the city is waiting until every I is dotted and every T is crossed before pulling the plug. City manager Phil Howland estimates the time needed to drain the remaining water at one week.

The dry bottom on the eastern half of the lake is wet again from tonight's rain, but it was looking pretty solid this week-- deceptively so, because when I stepped on what appeared to be caked soil I sank past my ankles.

It occurred to me today that the lake bottom is made of fine particulate matter-- silt-- that has been plenty wet for many years. That means at least a portion of the dry lake bottom may be quicksand.

Quicksand often appears solid, supporting leaves and small stones, but stepping in it can be deadly. I urge anyone who might be thinking of exploring the lake bed in the coming weeks to exercise extreme care. Bring a buddy and a rope, poke the ground ahead of you with a stick.

Maybe there's no quicksand, but maybe there is. Be careful!

A Tour of The Western Wetlands

The wetlands to the west of Pine Lake were finished a bit more than a year ago, as best I can recollect. I sure wish I had paid more attention!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Tour of the Eastern Wetlands

The wetlands upstream of the lake have been in place a couple of years now and are maturing nicely. Let's take a tour in photos and words.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Pine Lake was designed to provide recreational areas convenient to every house within the city limits. Some of the original green space is gone, but the city maintains a park across the street from City Hall and of course the lake.

Over the past five or so years the city government has provided additional public space in the form of two wetlands bordered by Snapfinger Creek-- a large one east (upstream) of the lake, and a smaller one west of the lake (downstream). The wetlands came about because of successful grant-writing by our city government. I'd love to know more about how it all came about. I know the upstream project, at least, was in the wind as early as 2000, for I remember former mayor Al Fowler talking about finding funds to develop upstream holding ponds  to serve as filters for the lake, removing sediment and bacteria.

In my next two posts I'll take a look in pictures and words at the Eastern and Western wetlands.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pine Lake's Mean Streets

Every street in the little city of Pine Lake is eminently walkable. There's no through traffic, and pedestrians stroll the streets to see the foliage and the houses. There's a lot of up-and-down involved, but the views are worthwhile-- and stunning in the spring!

Here are some photos taken over the past several months:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More April Foliage

Click MORE, below, to see the rest of the pictures.

The Internet Gods Relent

The internet gods have finally relented. My ISP is Comcast, which has hereto been reliable, but my signal went down Thursday evening and only resumed this evening. Every time I phoned I got a different story: the signal from the Master's in Augusta caused the disruption; it was a problem in my house; there was a system software problem; and oh, yes, the problem is in my house, and no, we can't possibly send anyone out there before Monday afternoon.

So before my signal goes out again, I'll post some more April photos.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cottages and Cabins and Bungalows, Oh, My!

Our little city was founded as a summer getaway for Atlantans. The original lots, which sold in the mid-1930s for $69.95, were a mere 20 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Tents and trailers were eventually replaced by cabins-- many with a single room and no indoor plumbing.

Over the decades many of the lots have been combined and cabins have been expanded, rebuilt, demolished, or lost to fire, so today we have buildings from every decade.Every home is unique. Most are small and could be called cottages or bungalows, and a few might most accurately be called cabins.Each has its particular charm.

The postage stamp-sized lots are full of trees, flowering shrubs, and yard art of every description. The houses are of every shape and every color. This makes Pine Lake a visual extravaganza.

I present here some of Pine Lake's houses. Maybe you'll recognize yours!

I'd like to say that I picked my best shots-- not necessarily the best or most interesting houses. For some reason my walk today up Oak and back down Pine was particularly productive. I've actually taken more shots of the houses on the back side of the lake, but morning sun spoiled many of them and I just couldn't get a good perspective on others. Still, you'll see home from both sides of the lake.

So anyway, here are quite a few of our community's bungalows, cottages, and cabins.Click on the photos to see them in large format.

Click MORE, below, to see the rest of the photos.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taking Photos

On my 14th Christmas my parents gave me a cheap plastic camera. I don't remember the format, but it must have been 110. It had a serious light leak, and I had little budget for film or developing, but I loved the camera and had a lot of fun with it.

Despite the small format and little in the way of controls, I nonetheless got a few good shots. Here's a photo of my Dad's beat-up 1950 Dodge pickup. For three-and-a-half years I rode 20 miles to school in the morning and 20 miles back in it.

Here's a photo of my siblings.

Click MORE, just below, to continue

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Early April Photos of Flowers

To see more, click More below

Dredging the Lake

Young People Swimming in Pine Lake, ca 1940s
A young lake is said to be oligotropic. It is usually relatively clear, high in dissolved oxygen, and deep and receives few nutrients, thereby supporting little plant and animal life. As nutrients increase, together with siltation due to the acts of humans and nature, plant and animal life increases. The lake then begins to mature and is referred to as a balanced mesotrophic lake. The continued siltation and accumulation of organic matter begin to fill up the lake, making it shallower. This, together with proper nutrients, increases the growth of aquatic plants, particularly algae, and the lake becomes mature, or eutrophic, with low water transparency, large organic deposits colored brown or black, and often hydrogen sulfide odors. If there is an excess of nutrients, the algal growths greatly increase ("bloom"), die, and decay. The decay process uses up more oxygen to the point of there not being enough for other forms of aquatic life. As the growth and decay progress, the lake fills with organic matter and and silt to become a marsh and, eventually dry land.

     -- Salvato, Nemerow, & Agardy, Environmental Engineering, John Wiley & Sons, 2003, p. 551

Dredging the Lake

The average lifespan of a man-made lake is about 75 years. During that time sediment carried in by the lake's headwaters slowly settles on the lake bottom, making it more and more shallow. As the lake's depth increases the temperature decreases; this leads to increased algal and bacterial growth which can pose a hazard to swimmers and fishermen. Eventually the lake will fill with no longer be a lake.

Our lake was created in the mid-1930s-- 75 or so years ago. The eastern portion was purposefully shallow, the western portion less so. Snapfinger Creek apparently fed directly into the lake-- along with all its silt. At some point-- I believe it was the early 1940's-- the city created a berm along the south side of the lake, creating a separate channel for Snapfinger and a flume for inflow into the lake.This certainly reduced sedimentation, but by the beginning of the twenty-first century the lake was moving inexorably toward eutrophy. The lake had become warmer as it had grown more shallow, and bacterial counts often precluded swimming.

The solution to this problem is, clearly, dredging-- draining the water from the lake, removing accumulated silt and hopefully making the lake a bit deeper than it was originally, rebuilding the berm along the south side of the lake, refilling the lake, and restocking it with native fish.

Happily, this is about to happen.

In future posts I'll write more about this project and document its progress with photos.


Today, high over the lake, I saw a hawk being mobbed by a crow.

Mobbing is a term animal behaviorists use to describe the individual or group harassment of a predator by a prey species. It's most often seen in birds, but occurs in a variety of mammalian species as well. The purpose seems to be to alert other members of the prey species to the presence of the predator or to protect the mobbers' offspring by distracting the predator.

If you've ever seen two or three or more birds doing an aerial ballet with a larger bird, you were watching a mobbing.

My  zoom lens was far too short to allow a close-up, but I did get some photos. Here the irritated hawk dives on the crow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Draining of Pine Lake

Above: Lake Water Empties into Western Wetlands

The Draining of Pine Lake

For several weeks now the waters have been slowly draining from the lake. This is in preparation for a 1.5 million dollar dredging project which the city has been lucky enough and smart enough to organize. The eastern (upstream) half of the lake is now dry, and the western half will soon follow.

I'll write more about the dredging, but today, here are some photos.

Click MORE, below, to see the pictures.

More March Photos (2 of 2)

More exciting photos of our pocket wilderness...

To see the rest of the photos, cllick MORE, below.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

March Photos (1 of 2)

March brought spring to Pine Lake. Here are a few of my March photos of flowers and animals and people. I'll post more March photos in a few days, then some posts about the impending dredging of Pine Lake.