The Lake and the Landfill

In Search of Atlanta's Lake Charlotte

Illustration by Nate Beaty

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The Lake and the Landfill

In Search of Atlanta's Lake Charlotte

by Hannah S. Palmer
Southern Cultures, Vol. 27, No. 2: Built/Unbuilt

“All the maps were wrong.”

Lake Charlotte started to bother me one summer while I was working on a freelance project with a nonprofit called Trees Atlanta. Somewhere in the organization’s sunny building, I saw a poster illustrating Atlanta’s tree canopy—a kind of heat map of trees that needed saving. Red-orange blocks downtown sprawled into yellow-green neighborhoods and green parks. I studied it while waiting for my meeting to begin, amused to see the typical city map in reverse, defined by its undeveloped pockets instead of highways. The deepest green was in the southeast corner of the city, an emerald parcel bounded by a landfill and I-285. I knew what it was—Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve—but I had never been there.

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