Along with an enviable location off Peachtree Road, within walking distance of three major churches, schools, restaurants and shops, the Peachtree Heights East neighborhood has one feature that makes it a particular standout among Buckhead neighborhoods: It boasts an enormous pond surrounded by landscaped lawns and flower beds at its heart.
“The duck pond,” as it’s known, is a private park between Parkside Drive and Demorest Avenue that was deeded to the neighborhood by Mrs. E Rivers, whose family once owned most of the land in the vicinity. But despite being owned by residents of the 330-home community, the private parcel is open to the public who comes to sit on a stone bench by the water, admire the blooming azaleas or chase the ducks and geese that congregate along the shoreline.
In the 1930s, the neighborhood’s ladies formed a garden club - dubbed Ladies of the Lake - to maintain the grounds. About 30 years ago, they began organizing events to raise funds for park projects. Forty-year resident Rosalind Callaghan is the oldest living member of that band and remembers when the lake was more of an eyesore than an amenity.
“This park was pretty rough and overgrown in 1973,” she said. “We started pruning and taking down trees, all on a shoestring budget. We started with a neighborhood garage sale to raise money. The next year, we had a fun fair for the kids. Then someone had the idea of having a picnic in the park.”
The outing was such a success that the ladies kept up the tradition. On May 5, they’ll host their 28th Garden Party, a rain-or-shine party with food, silent auctions and music under a giant tent at the water’s edge. Proceeds go to the Ladies of the Lake Foundation that oversees the property.
“If it’s a beautiful day, we can get more than 200 people out,” said Cathy Hart, the current Ladies of the Lake president. “It’s the social event of the neighborhood and people look forward to it every year.”
Past years have raised as much as $34,000 for a variety of projects, including the overhaul and planting of a grotto at one end of the lake, tree pruning and plantings and aerators for the lake.
“We also try to do something people can see that makes a difference,” said Hart. “We want the park to be a place everyone can enjoy. The only thing we ask is that people not feed the wildlife. We love our ducks, hawks and the occasional egret, but we also have geese, and they’ve got to go.”
The lake is also the setting for events throughout the year, from the neighborhood Easter Egg hunt and Fourth of July parade to the fall pumpkin float and holiday party. And twice a year, the Ladies invite everyone to turn out for park clean-up days. It takes a concerted effort of those residents to keep the park pristine, said Hart.
“We say it does take a village of volunteers to keep it going,” she said. “But the lake is what sets us apart. To be in the city like we are and have this here, it’s very special.”
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