November Headwater Highlights

Bob Wins Cox Conserves Hero Award

Bob and his wife Cindy immediately after the announcement sitting next to a very happy Sally Sears. We are thrilled Bob received the recognition he deserves and that we have received such a generous donation. One of the best parts about this is that it was really all thanks to you for your vote!

Bob and his wife Cindy immediately after the announcement sitting next to a very happy Sally Sears. We are thrilled Bob received the recognition he deserves and that we have received such a generous donation. One of the best parts about this is that it was really all thanks to you for your vote!

And the winner is Bob Scott! A studio full of environmentalists cheered the South Fork hero as he took first place in the annual Cox Conserves Hero award  Tuesday night at Channel 2 WSB TV. Scott and his wife Cynthia beamed at the huge $10,000 prize for his charity of choice... The South Fork Conservancy.

"This is a great asset right in our backyard," Scott says of the Cedar Chase and Confluence trails he's faithfully mowed for years. The picture of Scott pushing a 22" mower caused Cox sponsors to suggest the prize include a riding mower one day.  He recommends using the money to help expand the trail connections from the BeltLine to Emory University.

 Competition for the top prize included Joy Carter, whose work with the Audubon Society includes bird identification along South Fork Trails, and Barry Henson, testing and restoring north Georgia forest waters.

The Cox Conserves Heroes program was created through a partnership between The Trust for Public Land and Cox Enterprises, the parent company of Channel 2 WSB-TV, to honor local conservation volunteers.  


By Sally Sears

I took clippers and a friend to help me with some Chestnut Guilt Sunday afternoon. 

A year ago I helped scouts and students plant 18 chestnut saplings on a slope by the South Fork, on the Confluence trail. All  spring long I hiked the trail and watched the newcomer trees thrive. Proud Midwife! But the hot summer and fast-growing vines kept me from leaving the trail to check on the chestnut babies. Before long, I could not see them. By August my guilt was as hot as the sun, strangling like a honeysuckle vine. I ignored it. Only now, after a first freeze, was I ready to see how many survived their first summer of inattention. Jane came with me. We climbed  to the top of the orchard, past a stray Bradford Pear, dodging thorny hybrid rose canes. There we  found our first chestnut. 

Twelve months in the ground, small and the leaf was dead. But the pencil sized trunk was limber and alive. Jane pounced on the vines that overgrew it. I searched for another. A big one, maybe two feet high, full of chestnut colored leaves, stood in a charmed circle. We enlarged the circle. Another smaller tree up by the DOT fence was covered in broom sedge. Cleared! So we worked our way down the slope. My guilt eased with each yank of a honeysuckle root. 

I remembered the bright young man who led the project in fourth grade, at Morningside Elementary.  Thomas Rudolph and his classmates put nuts in pots in a window and watched them spring to life.  Special nuts with some immunity to Asian Chestnut Blight.  Two dozen nuts survived the classrooms' experiment and Thomas visited them over the summer at Tony Powers' Hardware Store greenhouse. 

Then he led the planting of the 18 saplings which made it through the summer. WABE Radio did a news story on returning chestnuts to the South Fork.   Then I sort of stopped paying attention. I know Thomas had a big first year in Middle School.  

It takes patience to raise an orchard, and hot work fighting invasive non-native vines. I'm not there yet.   So finding a tree growing quietly under a tangle of vines was inspiring. Jane and I celebrated each little twig we found.  Six. Seven.  I chopped down the Bradford Pear.  Beside it was Chestnut Eight. And then nine. 

There may be more, but that was enough for today. My guilt on hold, we  scrambled down to the trail. Nine out of eighteen?  I want to call Thomas and the boy  scouts who  helped to plant them. We are batting five hundred. I will take that. I bet they will, too.

Cheshire Farm Trail Transformed

As GDOT’s best laid plans continue to unfold, the Cheshire Farm Trail has gone from gravel gorge to winding woodland, almost overnight! The trail reaped serious seasonal rewards this fall with extensive plantings along the footpath’s edge. Why not take a crisp stroll and try our tree scavenger hunt- which of these can you spot?

  • Kudzu
  • Tulip Poplar
  • Red Maple
  • Deodar Cedar
  • Willow Oak
  • Sassafras
  • Loblolly Pine
  • Nellie Stevens Holly
  • Overcup Oaks
  • Black Gum
  • Winged Sumac
  • River Oats
  • Japanese Hops
  • American Chestnut
  • Poison Ivy (look out!)
  • Silver Bell

While you’re at it, take a look at our completed prototype trailhead sign on the Meadow Trail (see Warner McConaughey’s article below).

Invasives Fade From View In Parkwood Park

Parkwood Park replaced the lush green of summer with an abundance of fall colors!  We are enjoying the bright yellow & crimson of the spice bushes and sweet shrubs.  The red  winterberries are especially abundant this year and I can see the birds eyeing the bright purple berries on our beauty berries. Installation for Meredith Judlicka’s, Garden Designer with Plants Creative Landscapes planting plan is due to begin in the south end of the park in the next few weeks.

We are especially thankful for what is missing in our park—the war on the English ivy is almost won.  The few remaining privet, amur honeysuckles, and liriope won’t be around this time next year.  Parkwood Garden Club members continue to support the restoration with their generous donations so we can continue our efforts in 2015.

warner painting sign.jpg

A Sign of Things To Come

By Warner McConaughey, SFC Board Member

Atlanta’s trail builders follow different approaches. The PATH Foundation builds bike trails, inviting users onto broad ribbons of concrete traversing the city and surrounding countryside. The Beltline’s vision centers around a train track and in-fill housing. 

The South Fork is different. Our goals aren’t focused on man-made infrastructure. Our paths follow existing sewer easements, highway right-of-ways, parks and residential backyards as they pass through first-growth forests, meadows, floodplains and urban settings. Through a network of 31 miles of trails, our vision aims for connectivity, restoration, and watershed repair.

The trail’s design is unique in that it’ll be dictated by the wants and needs of the various neighborhoods through which it travels. Just as every neighborhood is unique with its own flair and appeal, each trail segment will reflect the local sentiment and personality. Some stretches will consist of a small footpath, others will be built for bikes and joggers, and perhaps others for wheelchairs and strollers. 

In a dynamic riparian environment, however, we need a unifying element to link all the different segments. Instead of infrastructure and concrete, South Fork trails will be unified by trailhead signage and wayfinding markers. The branding will represent the South Fork’s vision: it will help visitors feel connected, guides and informs them, and increases their safety and security.  

Developing the branding and signage of such a grand project has been a daunting and yet exciting process. We started by looking at signs at other parks, trails and historical sights. It was easy to see what we didn't want: obnoxious signs that stood out of place, and signs that were counterintuitive to their message. We also found that horizontal signs seemed to do more to hide the site than promote it, and did not blend in well to the natural setting.

One cannot deny the strong links to the past and the many Indian influences along our creeks and trails--in fact the confluence of the North and South Forks is the site of an important Indian village. We also wanted to be respectful of our natural aesthetics, so our obvious choice for our signs were to make them out of natural materials--wood and rusted corten metal. Nature is better represented by vertical elements, so we looked at doing tall, subtle, vertical signs that would better blend into nature. By using a linear look, a bundle of sticks, almost like a totem pole, we think we have created a signature look that is representative of our mission.

The South Fork is delighted to have installed its first prototype sign. Please come check out our sign on the Meadow Loop Trailhead at Lindbergh Drive and let us know what you think! Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Sewage Contaminates The South Fork

On Wednesday, October 29, 2014, bad news poured in from creek watchers.  Atlanta Watershed spokeswoman Scheree Rawls confirmed that raw sewage poured into the South Fork of Peachtree Creek after a rain. Debris in the creek is the cause probable of the 5,500 gallon spill, from damage to a new sewer pipe near the CSX Railroad tracks just upstream from Taqueria Del Sol at Cheshire Bridge Road.

Emergency crews worked quickly to repair the system, adding signs alerting nearby neighbors to the unsanitary conditions.  Rawls says the city reported the spill to the Georgia office of Environmental Protection.

The spill is near a large tank built to hold sewage during rainstorms. Atlanta is completing a court-ordered repair of its sewer system, and in June installed a ten million gallon tank to store raw sewage off Cheshire Bridge at Liddell Drive. The tank is designed to take pressure off two sewer lines on either side of the creek. 

Clearly, rainstorms are part of the problem. The Watershed Department's website says the Liddell Tank is intended to prevent spills during storms. The following was taken from the city’s website peachtree-creek-capacity-relief-project: "System capacity is sufficient to convey dry weather flows but is compromised when conveying peak flows generated during wet weather."

Planting day was a blast! Photo of Dean Sprinkle, courtesy of Marianne Skeen.

Planting day was a blast! Photo of Dean Sprinkle, courtesy of Marianne Skeen.

Community Creates Native Forest at Ira B Melton Park

By Valerie Boss, Chairperson, Friends of Ira B Melton Park

A couple of years ago, the entrance to Ira B Melton Park at Desmond Drive was so overgrown with privet that most people didn’t realize the place was there. Then, the South Fork Conservancy got the ball rolling; the neighbors got fired up and formed a Park Pride Friends group, and the Boy Scouts threw in many helping hands.

And now? The privet’s gone. Same for a tangle of English ivy and Asian honeysuckle. Thanks to a Park Pride Small Change Grant, some generous matching funds (from the Clairmont Heights Civic Association, Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, South Fork Conservancy), wonderful planting layouts by Ainsley Waken of Awaken Landscape Designs, and a tremendous amount of hard work by the local community, Friends of Ira B Melton Park replaced the invasive species with thriving Georgia natives.

This extensive planting project received some much appreciated cash and in-kind donations along the way from the following: M. Cary and Daughters, Tony Powers at Intown Ace Hardware, Sally Sears, Lola Halpin, Denise Hartline, and Ron Smith (all members of the Georgia Native Plant Society).

The trail loop got some TLC, too. Thanks to Boy Scout Troop 534 and neighbors with strong backs and willing spirits, the south section near Glenn Creek was graveled. No more sinking ankle-deep in mud after a heavy rain! And Cub Scout Pack 6 of Den 7 Webelos II did a great job clearing out trash deposits in the park interior.

Looking forward to 2015, DeKalb County’s Parks Department promises  a stepping-stone crossing over the South Fork of Peachtree Creek. It will connect Ira B Melton and Mason Mill Parks with an innovative method of keeping feet dry and water flowing between large stepping stones. The idea is funded, projected for completion in September 2015.

Posted on November 18, 2014 .