Parched in Atlanta, GA!

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Principessa, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. Principessa

    Gold Member

    Nov 22, 2006
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    Lanier's new landscape brings surprises to the surface

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Christmas has come early to the shores outside of Val Perry's home on Lake Lanier.

    The rapidly shrinking lake has coughed up the skeletons of six Christmas trees Perry had sunk about 40 yards from his dock in at least 18 feet of water.

    Over the past 10 years, Perry tied the trees to cinderblocks and threw them in, hoping to create a hangout for fish. Today the trees scar his ever-growing beach along with an old tire, a forgotten fishing pole, some empty soda bottles and a busted lawn chair.

    Along with the trees, the dwindling lake has also exposed some other oddities: the concrete remains of bleachers that served a dirt racetrack in Gainesville, countless trees that were "topped" in the 1950s to prevent boating hazards and a former part of Ga. Highway 53 that was abandoned in Dawsonville to make way for the lake.

    For some, these items are depressing reminders of Lake Lanier's plight. For others, they are curiosities — or clean-up opportunities.

    Perry bemoaned the lake's sad condition as he piloted his blue and white pontoon boat near Tidwell Park, passing dozens of beached docks and boats.

    "You can see the devastation here. It's like being on the moon," said Perry, a retired IBM executive who now serves as executive vice president of the Lake Lanier Association, a lake protection group.

    As he spoke, Perry carefully navigated his boat around several tree trunks sticking out of the water. He pointed to the long branches attached to one of the trunks that stalled his boat earlier this month.

    When they were building Buford Dam and the lake in the 1950s, construction crews sawed off the tops of trees that rose more than 1035 feet above sea level, or about 35 feet from the lake's full level, said David Coughlin, a former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger who wrote a book about the lake's history entitled "Lake Sidney Lanier: A Storybook Site." The idea was to protect boaters, water skiers and others.

    Near Perry's home in Cumming, one of these remaining tree trunks is now pushing a boat dock nearly 45 degrees off the water.

    The retreating waters have also revealed traces of a mostly rural and sparsely populated community that once existed there. About 700 families were displaced by the lake, Coughlin said. To make way for the water, contractors working for the federal government demolished homes, barns and a dirt racetrack called variously Gainesville Speedway or Looper Speedway.

    The lake's levels have dipped so much that the crumbling concrete foundation for the racetrack's bleachers are now in plain view along the shore at Laurel Park in Gainesville. The forerunners of today's stock car races, the dirt-track contests at Gainesville Speedway were worth several hundred dollars in prize money, Coughlin said.

    "As the water goes down further, it is anybody's guess what else will pop up," said Coughlin, who lives in Buford and works as a community school director at South Gwinnett High School.

    On the other side of the lake in Dawsonville, a muddy, shell-covered part of old Highway 53 has surfaced at Thompson Creek Park. The pavement now spans the water, cutting that part of the lake in two. Highway 53 was rerouted during the lake's construction, Coughlin said, and that section was abandoned.

    If you didn't know the road's history, you might think it belonged there. It is still in good condition, complete with a concrete culvert that once allowed creek water to flow underneath. Yet, the beached docks and pontoon boats at one end of the road scream something is not right.

    Sightseers now stroll across the old road, pushing strollers and watching their young children search for shellfish in the mud. "This is just unreal," Christina Warner, of Dawsonville, said as she walked across the road with her husband and three children.

    The sinking lake has also revealed tons of debris and lost items, even guns.

    Tripper Sharp said he and his girlfriend were walking along the shore near the East Bank Park boat ramp in Buford earlier this month, looking at old coke bottles and other junk that had been uncovered by the receding waters, when they stumbled upon a rusty .25 caliber pistol. Sharp said the pistol was about 20 feet away from a dock that is now on dry land. He called police, who came out and collected it. Sharp said the officer told him it was the second handgun he had retrieved from Lanier since the lake levels started dropping.

    Meanwhile, north of Buford at the Starboard Cove Marina in Flowery Branch the nearly empty docks now sit on a muddy field dotted with shopping carts, grills, and a television antenna. Crews have moved most of the boats up onto a parking lot overlooking the docks.

    Michael Duling, the marina's general manager, took a visitor on a recent tour of the forlorn docks, pointing to a radio peeking out of the mud, then an electric heater, a barbecue, a small television set, and a still corked bottle of champagne. On the bright side, he said, the situation has given his staff an opportunity to clean up the mess.

    "A lot of people, I'm sure," Duling said, "were swearing when some of this went overboard."

    Staff Writer Andria Simmons contributed to this report.

    • Photos: The lake's lost and found
    • Photos: Lanier revealed: A photographer's essay

    • 10 tips to save water

    · The ins and outs of dredging Lake Lanier
    · Lanier's new landscape brings surprises to the surface
  2. SpeedoGuy

    Gold Member

    May 18, 2004
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    Pacific Northwest, USA
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