Lake draining causes quagmire

By Ed Brock

Deborah Ybarra says she woke up one morning and discovered that somebody had taken her lake.

It happened almost that quickly, she said. Somebody came in and drained Lake Tara in what was once the City of Lake Tara just north of Jonesboro.

"We noticed a backhoe and wondered what was going on," Ybarra said.

That was the end of June, and by the week before July Fourth most of the lake was gone. A ragged trench was dug through the dam that contained the lake and the water apparently flowed into a storm drain beneath Tara Road.

"It went quick," said Pat Forrister, Ybarra's mother, who lives a few doors down from the house her daughter bought brand-new in March. "I'd say it was three weeks before it went down to where we could really notice and then when they dug that deep hole it really went."

On Tuesday night Ybarra and several other residents who live on the lake went to the meeting of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to ask them to intercede. They were told that the county would help them all it could, but, basically, it's a private matter between landowners.

But one question Ybarra and the others have is who owns the lake.

The man who says he owns the lake, Michael Adamson of Suwanee, said in an e-mail to Ybarra that he drained the lake because the county asked him to repair the dam but wouldn't help with what he called a "tremendous" cost. So he's drained the lake and currently plans to leave it drained, while at the same time he has put the land up for sale.

Adamson, who did not return phone calls seeking comment in time for this article, said in the e-mail that his grandfather built the lake in 1936.

In her research, Ybarra has found two deeds ceding the lake over to what was then the incorporated City of Lake Tara. In 1951 a deed giving the lake to the city was filed naming C.M. Mendenhall as the owner of the lake. The following year a similar deed was filed, this one in the name of E.L. Adamson, and a clause in that deed specifically prohibited any Adamson descendants from reclaiming the lake.

"The problem now is the grandson of E.L. Adamson has come forth and claimed it," Ybarra said.

In his e-mail Adamson told Ybarra that in 1953 the Georgia Legislature revoked the City of Lake Tara's charter and after that the lake reverted to his grandfather's estate. During Tuesday night's meeting County Attorney Don Comer said that he had spoken to Adamson's attorney and was told the deed had a clause indicating that if something happened to the city the property would revert to the previous owner.

"My family has always maintained and paid the property taxes on the property," Adamson wrote.

Ybarra said her research has shown that the dissolution of the City of Lake Tara was never finalized.

Regardless of who owns the lake, commission Chairman Crandle Bray said the matter is one to be settled in the courts.

"I urge you all to get an attorney as quickly as possible," Bray said.

But Bray added that he would send county employees to the area to investigate a complaint from one resident that the trench that was dug through the dam is a hazard and threatens the county's right of way.

Meanwhile, Ybarra said she plans to file an injunction today. In his e-mail, Adamson said that neither he nor his company has any plans to develop the property. However, Ybarra said she believes Adamson already has a contract to sell the land.

Comer said Adamson's attorney told him that Adamson is willing to work with the residents around the lake.