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on the waterfront: two families enjoy life on Mississippi's waterways.

Across Mississippi, lakes offer tempting and accessible opportunities for families to live near the water. Whether it is to fulfill a love of swimming, fishing, or other water sports or simply to enjoy sunsets, wildlife, and all of nature's beauty in a serene lakefront environment, today's boat and lake houses prove that waterfront living is no longer just for weekends.

Glen Dear, owner and president of Gamma Enterprises, specializes in the construction of waterfront properties. He says that numerous lakes throughout the state offer a variety of options for people who want to be near the water. Lake Lorman, Lake Castle, and Lake Cavalier in Madison County, for example, offer a remote feeling of privacy, with large established trees, while newer developments, including Reunion and Lake Caroline, provide family-oriented features and events.

"It really just depends on what the person is looking for," Dear says. "There are lakes to accommodate an individual's request for stocking certain fish, and there are lakes that provide professional-grade courses for water sports."

Dear, who grew up in a quaint home on Lake Cavalier, also says that when it comes to the design and aesthetics of boathouses, nearly anything goes. Structures that used to be little more than four posts with a flattop roof have evolved and can become whatever a person's dream and budget will allow.

For Linda and Buddy Barding, life on the water at Lake Caroline has become a place to build memories with family and friends, and to strengthen their faith, as they host international students and youth groups from their church. "I grew up swimming and have always had a love of the water," Linda says. "When our children were small, we didn't have a place near the water, so it is really special to now be in a place where our children and grandchildren can enjoy all that nature has to offer."

When the Bartlings first envisioned a boathouse, they knew they wanted it to be open, with plenty of windows, and filled with things they loved. After purchasing their lot in 2005, Linda began collecting items. She started with 16 old windows, around which the house was planned. From there, she kept collecting items she found across the state, including an old gate from the Mississippi Delta, and a cast-iron sink for cleaning fish. Glen Dear helped the couple to design and build the structure to fit their needs.

While items found and collected helped shape the structure of the home, personal items adorn the walls and fill the rooms. Handmade quilts passed down from the couple's grandparents add a sense of warmth to the space. Linda's collection of Wolfe birds, which she helped create while working alongside Mildred Wolfe at her studio in Jackson for more than two decades, also adorn the home, as well as her handmade silhouettes, which capture special memories of her children, grandchildren, and parents.

When Buddy was asked to install new bleachers at a school, the couple was able to salvage the old wooden ones that his father had installed nearly 60 years earlier. The couple used the wood throughout their boathouse, adding yet another unique, personal touch to the house.

All of these items aside, it is time spent with the couple's two children and six grandchildren that make the home special. From tubing and swimming to fishing and roasting s'mores, the home is usually busy with activities and people. Because the boathouse is a short 30-minute drive from their main home, Linda and Buddy are often able to enjoy a sunset, dinner on the boat, and an evening swim. But for the Bartl ings, sharing their dream with others is what matters.

"We really wanted this place for our entire family, as well as for our church group and friends," Linda adds. "We wanted this to be a place to spend time together and to make beautiful memories. I think we are doing just that."

Canebrake Lake in Hattiesburg offers serenity and plenty of interaction with nature. From watching baby ducks and geese to being awed by the majesty of bald eagles, the lake offers a respite for homeowners Cathy and Allen Gersh.

The five-mile shoreline of Canebrake's main lake provides the perfect setting for the Gershes to enjoy their favorite activities, including fishing, boating, and watching the many facets of nature. In Hattiesburg, that includes admiring the beauty of golden eagles. The lake encompasses more than 250 acres of trophy-bass fishing, a favorite pastime for Allen, who often takes the fishing boat out on the water after a long day at work.

The Gershes built their home and boathouse in 2003. It quickly became a place where memories were made, as one of their daughters was married on the grounds just two weeks after the couple moved in. Since that time, they have continued to enjoy the location, particularly the convenience of walking from their main home right to the shore.

Architect Sam Coker designed their main home and the boathouse to mirror one another. The Mediterranean style of the structure features a tile roof, white stucco, and openness that creates the airy atmosphere the couple desired. Windows along the back of both houses allow the couple to quietly dream while taking in waterfront views any time of day and night. A king-size Murphy bed, a sofa bed, and a full kitchen in the boathouse also provide extra guest space for guests.

"We wanted the boathouse to have everything we needed in it, so that we were not constantly running back and forth to our main home for supplies or food," Cathy says. "We wanted to this to be a place for family to spend time, and where we could host informal gatherings with friends."

The Gershes each enjoyed water activities growing up: Cathy taking in the bayous of New Orleans, and Allen near the Great Lakes in Chicago. However, Chicago did not have bass, something Allen enjoys fishing from the waters behind their home in Canebrake. With careful thought given to the function of the boathouse, its features allow the couple to serve up the freshest catches around.

"We built the boat house with a place to allow for catching fish, cleaning fish, and grilling fish all within easy reach," Allen explains. "Having the fishing tackle, bait, grill, and all of the supplies needed right on hand makes it easy to enjoy fishing and dining any day of the week."

In addition to the bass boat, the boathouse shelters the couple's pontoon boat, which they use to host friends and visit with others on the lake in a slow, relaxed manner. The lake and the boat are central to the couple's way of life, which includes an outing on the water almost every night.

The couple eagerly welcomes friends and family, who come from places as far as California and the northeast to Mississippi hospitality on the lake.

Ultimately, the Gershes hope the house will be a place that their four grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 6 and currently live in Atlanta, will enjoy more and more as they grow up. After all, they will need to continue looking for the mermaid and alligator that Allen has convinced them live under the water. He has even provided a remote-controlled yellow submarine to aid in their search.

When the couple is not hosting friends and family from near and far, they enjoy the peace and relaxation the water offers. There is plenty of wildlife to watch, and using an app on their iPhone, the couple has discovered how to view planets and constellations under the evening sky.

"For us, the lake is peaceful and offers a place to relax," Allen adds. "It makes my wife happy, which in turn, makes me happy."
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Author:Morris Sharon
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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