The day was picture perfect. Cool breeze, bright warm sun, and a blue sky so clear it looked violet.
Dozens of teenagers, tweens and adults marched down Stapp Road on the western end of Tucker last Saturday morning towards their work project for the day - a 160-person “Rivers Alive” cleanup at Twin Brothers Lakes on the historic Johns Homestead property.
This 47-acre piece of incredible Tucker green space has two lakes and wetlands teeming with wildlife such as beaver, blue herons, hawks, ducks, turtles, snakes and fish. The lakes were originally created 60 years ago as a pay fishing lake. About seven years ago DeKalb County bought the property around the old Johns Homestead with the intention of establishing a nature preserve, hiking trails and a county history education center.
We had our work cut out for us.
With tools in hand and garbage bags hooked to belt loops, our Rivers Alive veterans took to the trails like old pros to dig out dumped bathroom sinks, old abandoned washers, and pounds of roof shingles.
Some notable highlights:
Saving a 200-year-old massive oak tree from invasive plant species. The removed debris reached 8 feet high by 12 feet wide (see photo).
One Twin Brothers Lakes neighbor dug out of the ground an old softball with tall green weeds growing out of it. This was definitely our “most unusual” find of the day (see photo).
Tucker resident Zach Whiteis with Music On Main Street in Lilburn rolled up his sleeves as a volunteer in the morning and then entertained us with live music over lunch (see photo).
20 to 30 Canada geese and dozens of ducks graced us with their presence on the lakes. Mother Nature was very good to us that day (see photo).
All this could not have happened without the support of our fellow Tuckerites:
Rehoboth Baptist Church let our volunteers park in their lot and gave us tables to use at our sign-in staging area. Tucker’s Publix Supermarket on Hugh Howell Road not only brought us breakfast, but then rolled up their sleeves and helped save that beautiful oak tree. Roly Poly, Firehouse Subs and Riverside Pizza all generously donated sandwich platters and large pizzas, so all these good Samaritans walked away satisfied with dirt on their clothes and lunch in their bellies.
For me, one of the most entertaining aspects of this annual event is to witness the charming antics of the parishioners of St. Johns Church. They are a loving bunch of do-gooders who supply this event year after year with pastries, muffins, breads, fruit, laughs and smiles. Frito Lay came through in the ninth inning with a last minute add of boxes of chips. They were a big hit with the kids and adults alike.
The County has been my tag-team for months supplying equipment and expertise, specifically Dave Butler with DeKalb County Natural Resources Management Office. Keep DeKalb Beautiful and the Dept. of Watershed Management both gave us recycle bags and other freebies to help make the day flow just a bit easier. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jannean Bello, Mary Still, Beth White and Ray Ganga who were invaluable teammates over the past few months helping organize all the nitty gritty details.
Northlake Thai Cuisine, Tucker Pet Supply, Golden Dolphin, Roly Poly, Parker's on Ponce and Sonic all offered coupons and gift cards to give out to volunteers. Go out and support your local Tucker businesses. As the TCA motto goes, “A dollar spent in Tucker, stays in Tucker."
Year after year many of the same Tucker organizations come to get muddy with us each October such as the Tucker Optimist Club, Boy Scout Troops 129 and 876, members of five different Tucker Girl Scout Troops and Tucker High School’s ROTC program.
This cleanup is a means to an end, with a vision in mind. If we play our cards right, help raise funds, and work with the county, we could end up with a new county museum and nature park, featuring the Johns family homestead as an educational centerpiece.