The Lake and the Landfill
The mysterious Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve in Atlanta is no longer a lake, nor a nature preserve, but a private two hundred–acre wilderness next to a landfill. This former public lake has a long and complicated history, including a suburban fishing club, a tragic debutante, botched plans for an inner-city campground, dumped bodies, and a landfill thwarted by organized Black neighbors. How did this once prized destination end up preserved in a state of arrested development? In 2019, as the landfills are capped and this corner of Atlanta begins to gentrify, the city considers whether to preserve Lake Charlotte again. In this personal essay, the author creeps through the fence to see what's left of the lake, the dam, and the Paleolithic quarry sites. Can Atlanta overcome a development pattern that paired neighborhoods for "Negro expansion" with industrial contamination? Fenced off for forty years, can nature—and the community—repair itself?