Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 8
By H.M. Cauley
Toys, found objects mark Doll's Head Trail
Discarded items found at the site have become quirky
art installations at Doll's Head Trail. One portion (above,
center) pays tribute to late actor Burt Reynolds.
ome call it creepy; some consider it a unique form of folk art. The
man responsible for Doll's Head Trail in DeKalb County admits the
concept is a bit of both.
"Yes, 'creepy' is used a lot to describe it," says Joel Slaton, a Tucker
carpenter who created the path in Constitution Lakes Park. "I like to think
it's whimsical, but dolls' heads are just creepy."
Slaton, who grew up near the nature preserve in southern DeKalb
County, got the idea to put dolls' heads and other found items along a trail
he blazed during the Great Recession.
"My work was down to almost nothing, and I started the trail to give
myself something to do," he says. "A lot of people walk along the sidewalk
and the boardwalk near the water, but there was also a trail off the
boardwalk that was forbidding and dark. I went back in there, exploring,
and set up a nature trail."
During the cleanup, Slaton uncovered several objects. The
park grounds once had been a brick factory and, later, the site of old
homesteads, but before becoming an attractive amenity in 2003, it
was also a dumping ground.
"People were dumping appliances, bike parts-you name it,"
Slaton says. "I found a pit with pieces of dolls in it, and I figured some
boy dismembered his sister's doll collection. And over the years, I've
found dolls in the South River nearby."
Slaton used the doll heads and arms and later other odd objects to
mark the trail's direction.
"I found stuff to use for signage, and once I started, I went into
overdrive. But the rule has always been that I only use things that are
found in the river or the park," he says. "The oddest thing I ever found
was a prosthetic leg. One time, I found three duck decoys. But a lot of
that stuff gets cherry-picked [taken by trail visitors]; it isn't there anymore."
Slaton fashioned his favorite trail marker out of an old toy car that he
surrounded with clay tiles on which he wrote the names of five movie characters played by Burt Reynolds. "It was my little tribute to him."
Trail hikers have added their own markers as well. "People have built
little vignettes of brick or multiple pieces," says Slaton, who gets out to the
park about once a week to patrol the trail and remove any additions that
might be deemed offensive. "At Halloween, I'll find all sorts of wild stuff, like
dolls with horns grafted onto them."
In the last few years, the trail has garnered significant internet publicity, drawing hikers and gawkers alike, Slaton says.
"It's amazing; people have gotten married out there, done videos
out there, gone on their first dates, traveled out of
state to be there," he says. "I've met some very cool
When you go
people through the trail who are now some of my
Doll's Head Trail at
dearest friends. Many of them are artists who help
Constitution Lakes Park,
me do this; I'll come up with an idea, and they'll put
1305 South River
it together in a way I can't."
Industrial Blvd., Atlanta;
H.M. Cauley is an Atlanta-based freelance
Georgia Magazine - October 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - October 2019
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 4
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 5
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 6
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 7
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 8
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 9
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 10
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 11
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 12
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 13
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 14
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 15
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 16
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 17
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 18
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 19
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 20
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 21
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 22
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 23
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 24
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 25
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 26
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 27
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 28
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 29
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 30
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 31
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 32
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 33
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 34
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 35
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 36
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 37
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 38
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 39
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 40
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 41
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - 42
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - October 2019 - Cover4