Pace Academy graduate Rena Ann Peck grew up in Buckhead’s Peachtree Battle neighborhood. These days she is Executive Director of the Georgia River Network, and founder of Watershed Sustainability LLC. She is a leading voice for safe river recreation and conservation, advocating for science-based watershed management, and encouraging Georgians to be stewards of local rivers. She also leads campaigns to conserve and protect places like the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Before next Tuesday’s ChiliFest for Rivers fundraiser at SweetWater Brewing Co., we asked Rena Ann for her Top 5 Something. Below she shares her favorite memories of Peachtree Creek, which flows through Buckhead.
Mapping out my river origins brought to light that I truly hail from Peachtree Creek. I was born at Piedmont Hospital at the top of the Peachtree Road Race’s infamous “Cardiac Hill.” Rain from that hill drains directly to the creek, and the little creek’s drainage is where I was raised, and where I raised my children.
① As a child selling peaches by my Rivers Rd. home, July’s prickly heat sent me searching for relief. I would hike Peachtree Creek’s cool waters from Peachtree Battle’s neighborhood brook to the creek’s mainstem at Peachtree Battle Cir., where I lived as a teen, riding a tire swing to jump into the rusty water. In 1990, when I was in Athens at UGA, Peachtree Creek flooded our home — my mother, Rena Peck, escaped out of the front door when a fireman with his canoe in the living room told my siblings “get in the boat let’s go!”
② At this time of year, I always look to the head of Peachtree Battle across from E. Rivers where my daughter and I would relish the miraculous Ginkgo trees’ bright yellow leaves falling all at once, and play in the leaves blanketing the ground in gold. Peachtree Battle median park was a special haven where my sister and I started our explorations on the creek, and ended dates with boys, kissing out the clock until the last minute before curfew. We sloughed through piped tributaries under roads; slid down algae ramps under bridges; and crossed through cave culverts in the dark to secret backyard gardens hunting salamanders under rocks (and hundreds of golf balls to sell at Cross Creek).
③ Peachtree Battle shopping center was a center for us as teens, where we camped out at Turtles Records to buy tickets to see the Police, and saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Silver Screen. A Jaliscos Mexican dinner followed by Baskin & Robbins and a quirky stroll through Richards Variety Store is still a good call for a fun time. I walk over there regularly for everything I need, and don’t know what I’d do without Pasta Vino once a week for Italian to carry back home.
④ Bobby Jones-Tanyard Creek: Many weekend nights, I’d join friends at not-so-secret tailgate parties under the railroad tracks at Peachtree Creek’s largest tributary, Tanyard Creek, and at Bobby Jones Golf Course on Peachtree Creek’s mainstem. Today, I love driving balls with my son, walking the Beltline with friends, and having a brew with my sister on the sunny clubhouse porch overlooking the green-space and spotting great blue herons.
⑤ Peachtree Hills: I raised my children on Springlake Dr. playing in the headwater creek of the Civil War Battle of the Ravine looking for salamanders and crayfish. Now I live in Peachtree Hills, hiking the creek with my son, fishing and catching tadpoles to grow bronze frogs whose songs sound like banjo twangs in my own Peachtree Creek backyard secret garden.