With a population of just 750, Pine Lake feels more like an artsy nature retreat than an incorporated city. Hidden under a tree canopy between the eastern Perimeter and Stone Mountain, the community began as a fishing getaway for Atlantans (yes, there is a lake) and officially became a city in 1937 (it’s DeKalb’s smallest). As Atlanta sprawled around it, Pine Lake resisted pressure to disappear into the suburbs. It’s known for the many artists, musicians, and writers who have flocked to its quiet shores, and the concerts, poetry readings, and art shows held in and around the quirky Pine Lake Beach House. “What’s unique about this city,” says Mayor Melanie Hammet, who is also a songwriter and recording artist, “is its care for the environment, its passion for the arts, and its sense of humor.”
Pine Lake features a patchwork quilt of architecture and landscaping styles, with eccentric outdoor art, rambling gardens, sprawling terraces, and rock gardens. Don’t expect mailboxes, though; here, neighbors greet each other at the tiny local post office.
The cultural and recreational heart of the community is the 12-acre lake and a constructed network of wetlands. In addition to providing natural habitat, the wetlands’ pollutant-filtering plants cleanse water from Snapfinger Creek as it flows through DeKalb County. Visitors can follow a short trail marked with instructional kiosks and enjoy the woods and wildlife.
Check out the community’s artistic talent firsthand each year during LakeFest, a volunteer-driven celebration of the neighborhood. The free festival (October 1 to 2) includes, yes, music, art, and food, but also a sand sculpture competition and “Floatzilla”—a parade of decorated, nonmotorized vessels that need be only “partially floating.”
EcoArts Camp aims to connect kids with the great outdoors while encouraging creativity. During three one- and two-week summer sessions (from $185), campers create crafts from objects found in nature, explore the wetlands’ flora and fauna, or stage performances. The last 2016 session runs July 11 to 22.
Hammet has a dozen recordings to her name, as well as 25 scores for theater. Each year she emcees and performs at LakeFest. One of her first actions as mayor was to create a Municipal Arts Panel to promote and generate revenue for artists and the city.
This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.