The Silver Lake Civic Association is not your typical neighborhood group.
Its activities include dredging and dam maintenance for a 28-acre lake, and upkeep of the 80 acres of old growth forests surrounding it, said Kris Miller, the association’s president.
“The lake today is an unbelievable natural resource,” Miller said. “There are very few tracts of property like that that are for the most part undisturbed in the middle of a metropolitan area. We think it’s a real jewel.”
Silver Lake, located near the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads in the city of Brookhaven, is surrounded by about 1,000 homes in four subdivisions: Brittany, Cambridge Park, Hampton Hall and Oglethorpe Estates.
Silver Lake is more than 100 years old and has an interesting background.
According to the Campus History Series’ book on Oglethorpe University by Anne A. Salter and Laura Masce, the 28-acre lake was built in 1911 by the Silver Lake Park Company. The lake was envisioned as the centerpiece for a real estate project called Silver Lake Estates.
William Randolph Hearst later bought the lake and surrounding property for Oglethorpe University, and renamed it Lake Phoebe in honor of his mother. For years, Oglethorpe students used the lake for water sports and recreation.
But following a dam disaster in Toccoa in 1977, the state of Georgia began a rigorous dam inspection movement, which resulted in the destruction of the Silver Lake dam and draining of the lake. But in 1980, the Silver Lake Civic Association and Oglethorpe officials mobilized to restore the lake, according to the civic association’s web site.
Since that time, the volunteer civic association has had responsibility for the lake, said Miller, who has led the group for 10 years.
Today, the property is open for passive recreation, such as fishing, kayaking and hiking around the lake. But Miller said there is an annual fee of $60 to use the lake.
“It’s not exclusive in any way. We just ask that those people who use the property … contribute to the cost of keeping it up,” Miller said.
And the lake requires a good bit of work, he said.
“Lakes do not take care of themselves – at least in Georgia,” Miller said. “The No. 1 responsibility we have is maintaining the dam and keeping it safe. That is a responsibility we take very seriously.”
They also make sure that the water is safe.
“We hire a certified wildlife biologist who manages water quality of the lake,” Miller said. “He advises us on how to keep it clean and pristine, and he takes measures to do that. Sometimes it’s removing algae, removing muck. That’s something he does to keep the water as clean as possible.”
Every year, the civic association hosts a party to raise money for the lake. Miller described it as a community event, where people can bring a picnic and listen to music on the lake. This year, the party will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 the day of the event.
Residents of the Silver Lake area describe it as a tight community. In addition to the lake, there are also two swim and tennis clubs, the Brittany Club, and the Hampton Hall Swim and Tennis Club.
Larry Shulman, a Brittany Club board member, said the club provides a great way for families in the area to get to know each other. He said there’s a thriving tennis community and an active swim team for kids. At any given time, there are likely to be people out at the club.
“There’s a mix of folks,” he said. “People absolutely love the club, and it spans a lot of generations.”
Schulman said he’s met many of his friends through the club.
“It’s really just a nice group of people,” Shulman said. “It’s really a community club. If you tie it in to [Our Lady of the Assumption] and St. Martins, and all the surrounding churches and stuff, it’s really nice to get to know people in the neighborhood.”
Shulman said he loves living in the Silver Lake community because of its proximity to parks and amenities.
“Between Murphey Candler [Park], the Marist soccer field, there’s just a ton of stuff to do,” Shulman said. “It’s just a nice place.”
Like Shulman, Miller loves the Silver Lake community. He’s lived near the lake since 1993 when he moved to the Hampton Hall neighborhood. About 10 years ago, he moved around the corner to Cambridge Park.
“There are so many things that are good about that north part of Brookhaven: great access to Ga. 400 and I-285, good schools, both public and private. And then you have the lake,” Miller said.
Miller said he thinks Silver Lake is a real treasure for the new city.
“It’s the largest lake inside the Perimeter,” Miller said. “To be that close to Atlanta with that kind of acreage is extraordinary.”