Lakeview Oaks might seem easy to overlook.
To find it, you drive down a winding, magnolia-shaded Dunwoody street and when you get to what seems like the end, you cross a little, two-lane bridge. Suddenly, you find yourself on a private street among a cluster of one-story and two-story homes surrounding a couple of small ponds and shadowed by the towering trees of Brook Run Park.
Asked to describe his neighborhood, resident Mann Reed put it this way: “a little bit of heaven tucked away.”
Folks who live in Lakeview Oaks often use words like “hidden” or “sheltered” or “private” to describe their community. Brenda Strickland, president of Lakeview Oaks’ homeowners association, first discovered the neighborhood when she went out for a walk one morning nine years ago and decided to see what was down a street she hadn’t checked out before. Now she likens her community to a magical, disappearing Scottish village depicted in film and on stage.
“When you drive across that bridge, it’s like going into Brigadoon,” she said. “The world just goes away.”
But the world has been intruding on Lakeview Oaks in recent years. And some of the folks who live in the quiet community have started fighting back publicly.
Lakeview Oaks was developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Brook Run had been home to a state hospital for mentally challenged patients. Later, the 100-plus-acre property passed to DeKalb County and then to the city of Dunwoody. City officials describe it as one of Dunwoody’s premier parks.
Lakeview Oaks residents regularly question plans for the development of Brook Run. They attended public meetings about the park to present their concerns. Some have complained that dogs have gotten loose from a public dog park in Brook Run and run through neighbors’ yards. Others worry about the damage that may be done by runoff from construction in the park. Recently, a group of residents took the city of Dunwoody to court in an unsuccessful attempt to convince city officials to alter their plans to build a 12-foot-wide concrete trail through Brook Run.
From the back yard of her home, Strickland can hear dogs barking in the dog park and see the orange construction fences marking the edge of the trail being built through the park.
“I was heartbroken to see the trees come down [for the trail], and I was heartbroken to see the damage done by the dog park,” she said. “There is so little virgin forest in this county. It’s heartbreaking to see these very special trees taken down.”
Just down the street, Hilbert Margol, who has lived in his Lakeview Oaks home about a quarter century and was among the first to buy in the community, worries that construction in the park will mean more water will run into Lakeview Oaks. Margol says he’s not especially worried about his own backyard – he has two drains and pipes in his yard to carry water away – but he thinks some of his neighbors will have troubles during heavy rains.
“Some of the homes farther down have very high backyards,” he said. “I’ve watched it several times. At heavy rains, it’s just like a waterfall.”
But Lakeview Oaks residents are quick to say their neighborhood is more than just a place with disputes with city officials over what to do with Brook Run Park. They describe Lakeview Oaks as the sort of tight-knit community where neighbors know one another and look out for one another. “It is sweet. It is quiet. It is friendly,” Strickland said. “People take care of their homes. They take care of each other.”
Residents wave hello to one another as they walk around Village Drive. Recently, the community hosted a pot-luck dinner to show support for a resident who has been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “We’re rallying around one of our neighbors,” Beverly Armento, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said as she gestured toward the crowd of 50 or so gathered at a nearby condominium clubhouse. “This is Lakeview Oaks.”
Residents say the population of the community is aging. Strickland guessed that perhaps two-thirds of the residents now are retirees. Margol said that shows in community events that typically center on kids. “There’s no such thing as Halloween here,” Margol said. “We’ve stayed home [on Halloween] with a big basket of candy and not given out one piece.”
Still, long-time residents seem fine with that. Sanford and Joan Baskin moved in when his job brought him south from Minneapolis about 26 years ago. Now retired, they like living in Lakeview Oaks just fine. “It’s a very close community in many ways,” Joan Baskin said. “It’s still very close. We help each other in many ways.”
They found the place more or less by accident. “Someone told us about the townhouses at the top of the hill,” Joan Baskin said. They took a look, but “we decided we didn’t want a townhouse. We drove down here and didn’t leave.”