By Sarah Kuper
When the youngest of Christa and Bert Salter’s three children graduated high school in 2015, the couple decided to take their love of lake living to the next level by moving to the shores of Lake Mitchell in Clanton full time.
The Salter family called Vestavia Hills home for 23 years and when they put their house on the market, it sold in one hour.
After living in a home in The Preserve at Lake Mitchell, Bert Salter, a Clanton native, saw a lot for sale a few acres away. But it wasn’t just any tract of land.
The Salter’s new lake home is situated on a point in the lake’s shoreline in the new Eagle Point subdivision. Bordered on three sides by water, it is a spot on the lake Bert Salter had dreamed of owning since he had played on the lake as a child.
In deciding to build on the undeveloped land, Christa Salter said she and her husband felt, and still feel, like wilderness pioneers.
“There was no road or anything cut through to this lot,” she said. “We had to establish all utilities. It was an experience.”
Building the nearly 4,000-square-foot home was a huge undertaking, and the couple encountered more logistical hurdles than the average new home builder.
“There are certain things about living on a lake that make building different. You use different materials,” Christa Salter said.
At Lake Mitchell, boathouses have to float in the water – building into the lake bed is not permitted. Additionally, the lake is home to a few endangered species, so the Salters had to consult with environmental officials before making too many changes to the landscape.
Now, nine months later, the Craftsman-style home has electricity and running water, and the landscaping is almost finished.
Over the years, Christa Salter had accumulated photos and ideas for a dream lake home, and when the couple decided to build, she took her collection to Birmingham-based architect Tyler Price.
“We knew we wanted all the essentials on one level and we wanted individual space for all of our children because they will have their own families eventually,” she said. “Plus, we have areas that are handicap-accessible for the future.”
While the Salters handed over the design to the architect and the logistics to the builders, Christa Salter handled all the finishes and décor herself.
“It was a labor of love. I had never built a house before and there are so many things to consider: what kind of plugs and switches, what sort of hinges on doors. It can be tedious and especially because there aren’t many stores in Clanton for these things,” she said.
Christa Salter handpicked the granite, trim, molding and lighting, and she said she used local vendors as much as possible.
“We tried to keep some money in Clanton,” she said. “We want to help encourage the city we are moving to.”
If she didn’t find what she needed in Clanton, she still tried to do business within Alabama. The kitchen cabinets were made in north Alabama and she used Birmingham vendors such as River Bottom Pine, Mayer Lighting and Robert F. Henry Tile.
Christa Salter said she is pleased with the way the home has turned out and she has many favorite places in the house and views out the windows. But her escape is the screened porch off the master suite.
“It’s my own private area on the corner of the house,” she said. “The view encompasses the whole lake. I bought a chaise lounge for it.”
While Bert Salter was born and raised in Clanton, Christa Salter said she is very much a city girl, so there have been some adjustments to her new life.
“I grew up having everything convenient to me, but living down here I have learned to make lists because I can’t just run to Publix all the time.”
Christa Salter said she still visits her favorite Vestavia Hills retailers on trips to town.
In fact, she and Bert Salter still work at their Birmingham-area jobs, so they keep an apartment in town off of Lakeshore Drive.
Christa Salter is able to work remotely when she is at the lake, and once the couple is completely moved into their new home, Bert Salter will commute to his job at Alex Kontos Fruit Co.
Christa Salter said her husband always has been attracted to Lake Mitchell because of his boyhood days on the lake, but for her part there is a lot Lake Mitchell offers that other area lakes don’t.
“It is so quiet here,” she said. “There is almost no traffic on the water and the lake is dammed on both ends, so the water level is regulated. It isn’t party central all the time but it is a close community with social events like poker runs and an active homeowners and boat owners’ association.”
She said she loves the family-oriented feel of the lake and the peace and quiet, and she misses it when she’s gone. That being said, she also thinks the lake is almost too quiet sometimes.
She said she doesn’t think people know how nice the lake is or how close to town it really is – about 61 miles from Vestavia Hills.
While more neighborhoods and gated communities are under construction around Lake Mitchell, the Salters have no neighbors in their secluded area on Eagle Point.
The closest thing to a next-door neighbor they have is the abundant wildlife.
“Raccoons, turkeys, deer – they are always setting off our motion detector lights. There are fresh paw prints every morning,” she said.
Plus, the Salters frequently spy the property’s namesake roosting in nests in the tall trees along their driveway.
“We have three bald eagles,” she said. “I always see them on my way to the mailbox.”
Christa Salter is eager to see more humans populate the lakeshore, although she said they have had a number of couples from the Over the Mountain area move down recently, including some relatives.
Plus, she said, the Clanton area and Alexander City are seeing a lot of growth, with more restaurants and even a new campus of St. Vincent’s Hospital due to open in the fall.
“We believe Lake Mitchell is the best kept secret on the Alabama lake chain,” she said. “I love feeling like I’m on vacation every day.”