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5 Questions with Joanna Cloud
Joanna Cloud is the executive director of the Lake Lanier Association.

About Joanna Cloud

Age: 46

Hometown: Grew up in Dunwoody, but now calls northern Forsyth County home

Length of time in Northeast Georgia: Moved to Dunwoody in 1970; moved to North Forsyth in 2002

Education: Bachelor’s degree in management from Georgia Tech

Occupation: Executive director, Lake Lanier Association

Most interesting job: No contest — my current role with Lake Lanier Association. I meet interesting people every day in this job! I can now paddle a kayak with a bag of trash strapped on top without tipping over. I can tell you the best place on the lake to get onion rings, or a quick ham-and-cheese sandwich. I also have an entirely new dimension in my repertoire of dinner party conversation topics such as surface area evaporation and ground water absorption. What’s not to love about that?

Family information: My father is a retired Georgia Tech professor of chemical engineering, my mother is a retired librarian. Married to Glenn Cloud, three children ages 14, 12 and 9.

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to

Joanna Cloud loves her job as executive director of the Lake Lanier Association. The group strives to protect the lake and to ensure that it is clean and full so it can continue to fuel the economy of Northeast Georgia.

As the association’s leader, Cloud oversees the group’s annual Shore Sweep, which helps keep the lake clean and pulls about 35 tons of trash from the lake each year. She jokes that she’s now the expert of where to find the best food on the lake, too.

Today, The Times asks Cloud five questions about Lake Lanier and the association’s role in protecting it.


1. Is littering better or worse than it used to be, and why?

Certainly, we’ve made progress over the past two decades or so in terms of environmental awareness. Thanks in large part to organizations like Keep Hall Beautiful, the recipients of school programs about reducing litter have now grown up and are better stewards of our environment if for no other reason than they have a greater awareness of the issues.

I think we’ve also made progress in terms of water quality awareness through, of all places, the tri-state water wars. I think the concept of Lake Lanier being our source of drinking water has been hammered home by the media through the tri-states litigation. A side benefit of that is a better awareness of the water in the lake eventually becoming the water in our cup of coffee.

The drawback to that progress is that there is still a segment of the population that, whether it be due to education, economics or just plain apathy, doesn’t respect our environment and won’t take responsibility for proper disposal of the debris they generate.

It seems absolutely astonishing to me that someone would throw a dirty baby diaper on the ground instead of into a trash receptacle, but I’m sorry to say that it happens. I recently sat in a meeting with a local law enforcement official and he made the comment that it is amazing how many times they pull someone over for a boating under the influence violation and there is not a beer can to be found on the boat.


2. What is the biggest challenge to keeping our area clean and beautified?

Getting people to take responsibility for the trash they generate.


3. How do you meet the challenge of keeping a waterway like Flat Creek clean?

Flat Creek is a difficult issue to solve. It crosses through both unincorporated Hall County and the city of Gainesville into Lake Lanier. The areas that it flows through are lower-income and industrial areas. After a period of drought, we recently had a heavy rain that washed an unbelievable amount of debris into Flat Creek and out into the lake. I think it is going to take a full community effort to get some resolution on this issue.

My personal opinion is that there is going to have to be a multifaceted approach. The municipalities are going to have to step up and find a way to work together on this issue whether that be through cost sharing or other resource allocations.

One part will need to be education of the local residents about proper disposal of debris, and why that is important. That education is challenging in and of itself because there is a large demographic in that area that does not speak English as a first language and may not be plugged into conventional communication channels.

The other part will need to be better mechanics surrounding getting the debris on the ground picked up before it washes into the creek or lake.

There are commercial solutions available for more urban stream areas like Flat Creek but I think the initial reaction to those commercial systems are that they are very expensive. While they may be expensive, I can personally tell you, it takes a lot of labor and equipment to clean up an area like that once (debris) is floating on the water.

The weekend of the particular rain event that washed so much into the lake, Lake Lanier was hosting a major fishing tournament on the lake with national television coverage.

Given how much of a driver the lake is behind our local economy, spending money on a commercial solution to pick up debris may be more fiscally prudent once you factor in the detrimental impact of media coverage of such a situation. If we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars researching potential water reservoirs, can we not spend some money on protecting our existing one?


4. Are local businesses and other organizations heavily involved in helping you reach your goals?

The local community merchants such as the marinas, Lake Lanier Islands and most of the dock companies and organizations like Keep Hall Beautiful, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Dawson, Forsyth, South Hall and Alpharetta Rotary clubs, several high school groups to just name a few have been fabulous at helping us operate our Shore Sweep event for many years now. Suffice it to say, in general, calling and asking for help with Shore Sweep are some of the easiest phone calls I have to make.

Beyond Shore Sweep, almost all the marinas are active supporters of our organization in terms (of) our full lake initiative and now the Lake Lanier Water Safety Alliance. Going forward, I hope to see more of the local retailers get involved, especially as we flesh out more details on the Water Safety Alliance.


5. How do you think people’s attitude toward recycling has changed over the past five or 10 years and has it helped the lake? Why?

Again, I think there is better awareness from aggressive communications and programs about recycling starting with school-aged children that have now started to mature into adults and are creating a more environmentally conscious community. I think recycling has expanded to far more than the old newspaper recycle bins.

I am pleased to see recycling receptacles for all kinds of different materials — ink cartridges, cellphones, plastics, etc. — at a wide variety of public and retail establishments. The garbage companies are also taking a much more proactive role in picking up recycling separate from other trash.