Mountain Park 

Secluded town wants to retain independence to keep its peace and quiet

If you are enjoying the current election drama, then Mountain Park is the perfect place for you. In Mountain Park, every vote counts every time because every election hinges on just a handful of votes.

Situated just west of Roswell, Mountain Park spans the north Fulton and Cherokee county lines. Its geographic location gave name to the picturesque lake that most of the homes surround. It's called Lake Cherful, named after the first syllable of each of the two counties. But the name sounds a lot like "Lake Cheerful." And indeed it is.

But here in this secluded wooded setting, with narrow, winding streets, politics seethes in this small municipality. Mountain Park is by political definition a town, but it has no downtown or business section. It's a collection of homes perched on the lake's edges in their own little utopia. While most of the Atlanta suburban area has been annexed into larger towns or counties, Mountain Park has remained an independent municipa-lity with its own government and its own ways. There are no rules about mailboxes or house colors. But its population of about 750 makes it very exclusive.

City Councilman Mark Hildebrand says he was elected with a total of 160-plus votes, and the former mayor, Jay Barnett, lost by a margin of a mere nine votes. In addition to razor-thin margins, there are some pretty hot issues, too, such as runoff into beautiful Lake Cherful and Lake Garrett. As development has pushed its way all around the area, residents have become concerned about the silt that pours into the lakes. It is a difficult issue because it would require federal funding to dredge the lake to make it deeper, but a small municipality does not have the clout to get the attention of the feds.

But it is the price that Mountain Park pays to stay independent of county rule. Residents like the town and feel that staying independent has helped it stay that way -- secluded and quiet and picturesque.

Besides truly local politics, Mountain Park offers all types of home styles ranging from simple lakeside cottages to beautiful mini-mansions. For those who like the more unusual, there is a Geodesic dome house, a round house, a home built like a gazebo and a quaint little gingerbread house where Goldilocks and the three bears easily could live.

The center of Mountain Park is the cedar city hall, civic center and volunteer fire department that form a small cluster on Lake Cherful. More prominent are the charming footbridges that connect the homes and the park-like setting. Isolated from the burgeoning development just down the road, this idyllic area has been officially designated as a wildlife refuge. There are great blue heron, red-tailed hawks and pileated woodpeckers.

"The good thing about living here is that no one knows it's here," says one resident who has lived in Mountain Park for 20 years and insists on remaining anonymous.

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