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Tennessee Will Give Moccasin Bend Land To NPS
By Deborah Fitts
July 2004 CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.

The governor of Tennessee signed a letter of intent in late April to donate 220 acres of state land on historic Moccasin Bend to the National Park Service.

The property will the first public land to be conveyed to the new Moccasin Bend unit of Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. The 780-acre unit was authorized by an act of Congress in February 2003 to protect significant Civil War and American Indian sites along the banks of the Tennessee River.

The announcement by Governor Phil Bredesen "was a big icebreaker," said park superintendent Patrick Reed. He said it will likely prompt the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to follow suit and carry out their own planned land donations, totaling another 420 acres.

The park has already purchased 110 acres from private owners and has started managing the property as a new park unit, the 18th belonging to Chickamauga-Chattanooga.The 17 other units comprise 8,300 acres.

Reed said Moccasin Bend represents "a whole new interpretive thing for us," since the river peninsula was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 10,000 years and has rich archaeological assets. It was also a hub of the "Trail of Tears" in 1838, when the Cherokee nation was forced from its homeland.

Reed said that for students of the Civil War, among the most exciting features of the property destined for the park were artillery positions at the south end of Stringers Ridge. There on Nov. 24, 1863, Ohio and Indiana batteries fired on Confederate positions to play a key role in re-opening federal supply lines to Chattanooga.

"The earthworks are in remarkably good condition," Reed said. "We're delighted to be able to protect them." He noted that "the vast majority" of the extensive Confederate and Union works in the environs of Chattanooga have been destroyed by development.

Reed predicted that the state land, and also the county and city land, might be conveyed to the park by mid-September.

The state will continue to own another 110 acres, including a state mental-health hospital. The county and city also lease 150 additional acres on Moccasin Bend for a golf course. Reed said he hoped that someday the hospital and golf course will be moved and the land brought under protection. A total of 956 acres on Moccasin Bend, including the hospital and golf course land, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Reed acknowledged that at present he has no staff or budget to operate the new Moccasin Bend unit, but he said he was hopeful that money will be allocated for the coming year. Meanwhile, the park has created an "interim plan" to run the unit until a formal General Management Plan is crafted.

Reed said the Moccasin Bend unit would require an initial budget $1.1 million on top of the park's current $2.2 million total. A support group, Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park, will work toward public-private construction of a museum and visitor center.

Reed predicted that next year the park will install wayside exhibits at Moccasin Bend plus a temporary visitor contact station, probably in an existing building. "We'll start doing programming and have limited visitor access." He noted also that Chattanooga has plans to connect Moccasin Bend to the city's extensive river walk.

"We're very excited about it," Reed said of the park's new unit. Given the development of the area, "This was probably the last best opportunity to protect land on Moccasin Bend."

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