Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 15

launching sailing on the lake, according to Patrick
Monahan, retired assistant county manager.
" Jim always thought of Lake Mayer as the
people's park, " Monahan says. " He wanted Lake
Mayer to be that centerpiece for the community. "
The project took almost eight years of planning
and two years of work.
" It took a long time, but it turned out right, " says
Cedric Stratton, 90, former president of the Savannah
Striders running group. Stratton measured the track
in the 1970s for runners he coached.
'Things have changed'
When retired mailman Johnson revisited the
area in 1980, he was surprised to see that the
property abutting the park no longer included a
prison farm.
" It was a chain gang, the Brown [prison] Farm
and the juvenile [jail], " Johnson says, pointing to a
site across the lake. " Things have changed. "
Inmates on the Brown Farm grew produce
they both ate and sold, according to Elizabeth Scott,
historian for Bacon Park, a 700-acre recreation
allotment that once encompassed the lake's
current site.
At least one former inmate of the prison farm
went on to greater things. The late actor Robert
Mitchum was arrested in 1934 at age 16 for vagrancy
and begging on the streets of Savannah. Mitchum
worked several weeks at the prison camp. When
filming the movie " Cape Fear " in Savannah in 1961,
Mitchum said he didn't hold a grudge against the
town for his time at the Brown Farm.
'The ocean was here'
The county dug the site for fill dirt for more than
a decade before Lake Mayer was developed.
Savannah resident David Davenport recalls
the " big hole in the ground " about 20 feet deep and
laden with shells and fossils.
" You couldn't walk without stepping on them, "
Cedric Stratton, 90, still has the surveyor's wheel he used in the 1970s
to measure the distance of Lake Mayer's track for college runners
he coached.
says Davenport, who still has many of the fossils, including
pieces resembling large animal bones.
The soil at the future lake site was " like beach sand, " recalls
Savannah native Phillippa Paddison, 93, who brought her
Sunday school class to the hole and collected shells. " And you
begin thinking, well, the ocean was here. "
Five years after the lake was filled with water, Savannah
residents Sara Lloyd and Marguerite Mac Aulay found a woolly
mammoth tooth at the water's edge. Smithsonian Institution
paleobiology specialist Raymond T. Rye II verified the 8-pound,
9-inch-thick molar, which was ultimately donated to the
Smithsonian.
'I can't believe they thought it was a bad idea'
Lake Mayer is now the most popular of the county's 40
parks, according to Steve Proper, Chatham County parks and
recreation director.
Karshundra Mack of Savannah used to attend family
reunions at the park. Years later, she returned to Lake Mayer to
shed weight she gained during the pandemic. She chatted with
fellow walkers and praised Lake Mayer- " the walk, the nature,
everything about it. I can't believe they thought it was a bad
idea, " she says.
Phillippa Paddison is glad critics didn't stop the development.
She's enjoyed Lake Mayer for more than 50 years. Today,
she picnics there.
" I just know some people didn't want it to be filled up, " she
says. " But we're glad it's done. It's a beautiful spot. "
Leslie Moses is a freelance writer who lives in Savannah.
When you go
The county converted an existing tennis court at Lake
Meyer Community Park into a pickleball court.
Lake Mayer Community Park, 1850 E. Montgomery Crossroads,
Savannah. bit.ly/lakemayer.
www.georgiamagazine.org
15
LESLIE MOSES
LESLIE MOSES
http://www.bit.ly/lakemayer http://www.georgiamagazine.org

Georgia Magazine - May 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - May 2022

Contents
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 4
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 5
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 6
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 7
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 8
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 9
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 10
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 11
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 12
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 13
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 14
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 15
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 16
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 17
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 18
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 19
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 20
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 21
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 22
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 23
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 24
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 25
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 26
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 27
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 28
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 29
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 30
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 31
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Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 33
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 34
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 35
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 36
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 37
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - 38
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - May 2022 - Cover4
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