Just as mayor sings of 'birds in the air,' little Pine Lake named Wildlife Sanctuary

By David Pendered

Pine Lake folks talk big about theirs being the smallest city in DeKalb County. On Thursday, this self-described “micropolitan” was recognized as the latest Atlanta Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary. There was no word if the mayor will be singing about the award.

pine lake

Years of work by Pine Lake residents and supporters earned DeKalb County’s smallest city recognition as an Atlanta Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary. Credit: Atlanta Audubon

Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet wrote and performed Little Bitty City, the Mayor’s Musical Welcome, on the city’s website. Hammet has performed with some big name musicians, such as the Indigo Girls, and she twice mentions in her welcome Pine Lake’s wildlife including fish and birds, dogs and cats.

Now Pine Lake is providing a certified safe zone where birds can catch their breath on migrations. They can even call Pine Lake home if they choose to soak up the city’s hospitality. The welcome mat is out for other critters, and humans, too.

Pine Lake City Councilmember Megan Pulsts led the effort for the city to reach sanctuary status, according to a statement from Atlanta Audubon. It wasn’t easy.

“A tremendous amount of effort, over many years, has been invested in turning Pine Lake into an Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary,” Pulsts said in a statement.

The city’s namesake lake is the centerpiece of the newly certified sanctuary area. The lake covers 17 acres, and the sanctuary also covers two adjoining wetlands and a bio-retention area.

The wetlands were built to manage water, just as the bio-retention pond was crafted to filter stormwater runoff that flows through the city. Here’s how Atlanta Audubon described the sanctuary:

  • “The City and community worked together to remove invasive plant species, such as privet and English ivy, and to add native plant species to provide food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
  • “Pine Lake added more than 150 new trees, 250 bushes, and 36,000 square feet of native wildflower and grass seeding. The focus was on native plant species that tolerate Georgia’s variable weather conditions ensuring minimal maintenance over the lifetime of plantings.

    Pine Lake with native jewelweed in foreground

    Pine Lake is now flanked by hundreds of new plants, such as this native jewelweed that grows next to the lake. Credit: Atlanta Audubon

  • “The western wetlands feature clusters of big leaf magnolia, holly, and redbud trees as well as blackberry spicebush and winterberries.
  • “The Pine Lake dam was seeded with wildflowers and native grasses, and, in the eastern wetlands, Southern magnolia, sycamore, swamp white oak, sweet gum, tulip poplar, native azaleas and other drought tolerant species were added.
  • “Finally, more than 30 new trees were planted in the bio-retention area.”

Atlanta Audubon now has certified more than 550 sanctuaries in metro Atlanta. Each provides its own unique contribution to birds, wildlife and humans who occupy them. Humans should be named as beneficiaries of these greenspaces, according to Atlanta Audubon.

“This is an amazing area and a true gem in the Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program,” Melinda Langston, a board member of Atlanta Audubon who coordinated the wildlife sanctuary program, said in a statement. The welfare of birds and other wildlife is directly linked to the quality of food and shelter available to them.

“Pine Lake has worked diligently in recent years not only to create valuable habitat for birds and other wildlife, but has also to create a wonderful outdoor space for the residents of Pine Lake,” Langston said.

Until the mayor composes a new song to commemorate the Audubon designation, if the mayor chooses to compose a new song to commemorate the Audubon designation, the existing first refrain in the Little Bitty City song will suffice:

“We are a city,

“a little bitty city.

“A little bitty

“fish in the water.

“Birds in the air,

“dogs on the leash,

“and the cats don’t care.”

 

Pine Lake, Megan Pulsts, Pine Lake City Council member, poses with educational signage.

Pine Lake City Councilmember Megan Pulsts led the effort to remove non-native plant species and plant 150 new trees, 250 bushes, and 36,000 square feet of native wildflower and grass seeding. The work earned Pine Lake recognition as an Atlanta Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary. Credit: Atlanta Audubon

 

Pine Lake city officials Stephanie Weeks (left) and Megan Pulsts join Atlanta Audubon representatives Melinda Langston and Georgia LaMar in celebrating the city’s designation as an Atlanta Audubon Certified Wildlife Sanctuary. Credit: Atlanta Audubon

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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