tries to seek settlement on
Road to Nowhere
They have names like Bone Valley, Hazel Creek and Pilkeys
Creek. They are three of 28 Family and community cemeteries
located along the north shore of Fontana Lake on the North Carolina
side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
When the land was taken away to build Fontana Dam, the families
displaced were promised a road to the cemeteries where they
could visit the sites of graves of their family members
places where once mountain communities thrived. A road was started,
but environmentalists fought successfully to get the construction
stopped and the road became known as "the road to nowhere."
For many on both sides of the mountain, it was one in a string
of broken promises by the federal government. In order to accommodate
the families, the Tennessee Valley Authority provided barges
to take family members along the coastal shores of Fontana Lake
to visit the cemeteries left inaccessible by the roads
incompletion. The ages of those taking the barges to "Decoration
Day" ranged from 9-90-years-old.
In the 1980s, then-Tennessee Senators Jim Sasser and Al Gore
tried to get the region known as the North Shore declared a
Wilderness Area, which brought a storm of protest from descendants
of those buried in the cemeteries that became a national story.
Retiring North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was a constant advocate
for the families and fought to get the federal government to
keep its promise in North Carolina just as they did he claimed
with the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee.
Now the federal government is trying to find a way to come to
a cash settlement arrangement with Swain County, NC in order
to escape the promise they made to the families they displaced.
Swain County is regarded as one of the poorer counties in the
Smoky Mountain region and, while the money is an attractive
offer, many of the families displaced in the 1940s now reside
in areas other than Swain County and say the government should
keep its promise.
"These cemeteries are a valuable part of our heritage and
that of the Smoky Mountains," said Helen Newsome, "and
the government has, since the 1980s, consistently tried to find
a way to get out of keeping its promise to us and putting in
a primitive road where we could visit our family cemeteries.
I think of the number of men and women who fought to see that
the road was built and most of them have passed away and with
Sen. Helms, who knew the story of the region, is now retiring
and I guess they see an opportunity to come in with a fistful
of cash and buy there way out of it. This isnt right and
may eventually prevent us from taking our children and grandchildren
to these special places to tell them of their families. The
Great Smoky Mountains is not a national park like Yellowstone
or any other. It was the people and their unique way of life
that captured the nations interest as well as the communities
here that attracted so much attention. There is so much history
there that is in danger of being forgotten."
It isnt only families, but some fire officials who say
a primitive road would be a welcomed asset in the event of a
fire in the region.
"I can tell you a variety of reasons a road would be a
welcomed addition," said one emergency management official.
"If a fire was to break out in the vicinity of some of
those cemeteries, there is no way to get to them and, while
many rightly say that is sometimes a good thing for nature to
cleanse itself, we do have an obligation of sorts to protect
the cemetery sights. In addition, other emergency personnel
would be able to access the desolate region. This is a region
where a fugitive can get to and evade police if he knows it
well enough or hikers exploring it could become seriously injured
and need evacuation. A primitive road would have limited environmental
impact on the region and would be way to please most people."
Public meetings are expected to be held on the subject and most
are hoping those holding the meetings will give enough notice
for those interested to attend and contribute their concerns.
Pilkeys Creek on the North Shore
KNOXVILLE Pilkeys Creek native and
then-South Knoxville resident Howard Herron, often spoke of
his life growing up in the Smoky Mountains and the days following
W.W.II when veterans returning home from the battlefields literally
drove cars into the lake unaware of what had happened while
they were overseas fighting.
Throughout his life, he fought to see that they road was built
back to his old homeplace where he spent more than 20 years
of his life in a region his family had called home for more
than one hundred years.
"The government came in here when most of the men were
off to war in Europe and the Pacific and got the land. Many
relatives tried to write their husbands and fathers, but getting
mail to the front lines of the war wasnt always a sure
thing and so many had no idea while they were off fighting for
their country and to protect their homes, their homes were being
taken away. My brothers had men beating on their doors at two
and three in the morning wondering where their families were
and their homes. It was truly a sad time for them and one where
they felt they had been cheated. Everyone wanted to help their
country and they were told this was the way to do it and the
land that was not used for Fontana Lake would be given back
to the families, but instead they turned around at gave it to
the National Park Service without ever consulting us. To make
matters worse, when everyone had lost their land, ALCOA built
an executive recreation facility on some of the land taken."
Herron went on to lament on the loss of history for both the
families in towns like Proctor and other community settlements
as well as Native Americans. Herron was well known among many
of the families for his fight to get the "Road to Nowhere"
built. He never missed a trip to his family cemetery regardless
of his advancing age and always carried his trademark hoe instead
of a walking stick. On every visit I made with him to the Pilkeys
Creek cemetery, he walked to his brothers old homeplace
and cleaned out a spring where he would then sit and drink water
from it before hiking over to his old homeplace where the remnants
of a stone chimney still stand and wild mountain roses planted
by his mother and grandmother dot the landscape around the old
cabin always pointing out the Herron Branch Creek that
carries his familys name.
"This was home," he said. "There is good land
here that supported us with food and it was a way of life unlike
any other. We grew up playing with the Cherokee and learning
how to live on the land as children and made cash money by selling
nuts and fruits we gathered farther up to the mining camps and
settlements. Maybe not paradise to people use to modern-day
conveniences, but there is so much family history that was made
here. Brothers and cousins going off to war and returning home,
children and grandchildren playing in the yard here and family
always family. I know we will never get it back, but
if they keep going like they are now, there will be descendants
of my family that may never see it and that is a loss to more
than just us. It will be a loss to the spirit of America as
Editors Note: Howard Herron passed away in October 1998
in Jefferson City. His family still hopes to keep the traditions
he taught them alive and hopefully see a day when they can drive
to the Pilkeys Creek cemetery to show their children and
grandchildren the graves of their grandfathers and grandmothers
and the homeplace that once belonged to their family.
joins private groups in preservation project
- In what is being heralded as the first conservation project
of its kind in the United States, the state of Tennessee has
joined forces with the Conservation Fund, Renewable Resources,
Inc. and International Paper to protect 75,000 acres of forestland
on the Cumberland Plateau.
"This purchase from International Paper showcases the power
of public-private partnerships to conserve and protect Tennessees
landscape," said Gov. Don Sundquist. "This magnificent
property will be enjoyed by Cumberland Trail hikers, wildlife
watchers, sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts for years
to come. It is truly a treasure for all Tennesseans to enjoy.
The property, which is located 40 miles northwest of Knoxville
is divided into two large tracts and includes portions of Anderson,
Scott and Campbell counties, Under a shared-use agreement, the
land will remain a working forest available for outdoor recreation.
The Conservation Fund acquired the propertys surface rights
from International Paper with significant financial support
from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through its Southern
Appalachia Forest Conservation Initiative. The initiative seeks
to conserve ecologically significant lands and improve forest
management in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee and Alabama
and the Little Tennessee River Basin in North Carolina.The timber
harvesting rights were purchased by Renewable Resources, Inc.
, a private timber investment company. The property will eventually
be transferred to the state of Tennessee. "This acquisition
protects strategically important habitat for high priority migratory
songbirds such as the cerulean, golden-winged warblers and other
unique non-game and game species," said Tennessee Wildlife
Resources Agency Director Gary Myers. "The property is
also home to the states only free ranging, wild population
of elk."The unique partnership received praise from conservation
officials across America.
"As a result of this project, said Conservation Fund
Larry Selzer, we now have a bold new model for forestland
conservation in America. I congratulate International Paper,
the state of Tennessee and Renewable Resources, Inc. for their
leadership, vision andcooperation."International Paper
is the one of the worlds largest paper and forest products
company and say they are proud to be a part
of the conservation project.
"Due to its proximity to the Royal Blue Wildlife Management
Area and the Cumberland Trail, this land is extremely important
to Tennessee citizens,"said George OBrien, Senior
Vice President, Forest Products for International Paper. "We
worked hard to structure a sales agreement that assured that
the area will continue to be managed using sustainable forestry
practices, and that public recreational use will continue in
Band of Brothers to hold 60th Reunion
CHATTANOOGA The 506th Parachute Infantry
Regiment will return to its roots and originating training
grounds in Toccoa, GA Oct. 2- 5 for their 60th Regimental Reunion.
The W.W. II Parachute Infantry Regiment was depicted in the
HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers." which was based
upon the book written by Stephen Ambrose.
The 506th was first created in July 1942 and placed under the
command of Col. Robert F. Sink, who developed a training program
that was considered one of the roughest in the U.S. Army
lasting 12 hours per day and including rigorous night-time force
marches and runs through the mountains of northeast Georgia.
In November of that year, the 506th Regiment was ordered to
Fort Benning, GA for parachute training. The first battalion
moved by train from Toccoa to Ft. Benning, the Second Battalion
marched with full field equipment and weapons from Toccoa to
Atlanta a distance of 120 miles. The Third Battalion
moved from Toccoa to Atlanta by rail and then force marched
136 miles from Atlanta to Fort Benning with full field equipment
and weapons in 72 hours. The Third Battalions march across
open country set the worlds record for an endurance march
that had been held by the Japanese.
Among the ranks of the legendary unit were many Tennesseans,
who would go on to serve in the parachute regiment throughout
The 506th, which was attached to the 101st Airborne Division,
had one of the most outstanding combat records in the European
theater and one of the highest casualty rates. Their first major
action was in the Normandy Invasion where, in ten months and
two days of combat, the unit had 509 men killed in action and
305 reported missing. They went on to serve in numerous conflicts
in the war and made their name a household word at the Battle
of Bastogne in December 1944.
They were almost immediately surrounded by a well-supplied and
reinforced German Army, but the unit fought doggedly and kept
the Germans at bay for 28 days. The situation turned grim for
the Americans as supplies dwindled away and bad weather kept
them from receiving necessary air drops to continue their defense
of the city. When German command learned of the conditions of
the soldiers defending Bastogne, they asked for the units
surrender and received the famous response "Nuts"
from the American commander.
While the members of the combat unit are in their late 70s and
early 80s, the organizers of the 60th annual Reunion of the
506th say they expect more than 150 members of the Regiment
to attend the event.
The Parachute Infantry Regiment as well as the 501st, 511th
and the 517th were all trained at Camp Toccoa, GA. The four-day
reunion will also feature the state of Georgia officially dedicating
the Highway in front of the old W.W. II training facility to
honor the men who served in the Regiment.
"Everyone is invited to attend this historic dedication
ceremony and meet these brave men and their families,"
said event spokesman and former Ranger CWO Bryan Hall Jackson,
USA, ret. "We are sadly losing our W.W.II veterans at an
alarming rate and these are the men who saved this nation during
a critical time in our history as a nation. Their actions in
W.W.II carried on and forged new traditions in the U.S. Army
Rangers and helped lay the groundwork for todays special
operations forces. It is truly an event worth attending to meet
the men who inspired the book Band of Brothers."
The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment site dedication will begin
at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4 on Dick Hill Parkway in Toccoa. For more
information, you can contact Bryan Jackson at (706) 638-4886
or (423) 595-0851.
to march to help save Franklin Battlefield
FRANKLIN - On November 15th & 16th, 2002, Civil War reenactors
will be marching
"Forty for Franklin" to help Save The Franklin Battlefield,
Inc. The twenty-one uniformed reenactors will be marching 40
miles over two days to raise funds to help retire the debt on
Collins Farm in Franklin.
Collins Farm is 3.22 acres of core battlefield Save The
Franklin Battlefield, Inc. (STFB) purchased in June 2001, preventing
it from possible commercial development. The land is on the
extreme Confederate right/Federal left of the Franklin battlefield
and was the ground General W. W. Loring's Division passed over
as they climbed the railroad
embankment and got entangled in the osage orange abatis in front
of the Federal trenches. It was this ground of which Lieutenant
William H. Berryhill of the 43rd Mississippi lamented, "I
cannot see how any human being could live two moments in such
Each of the twenty-one reenactors will portray and represent
one of the 17 Union and Confederate states that had regiments
engaged at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. Missouri,
Kentucky, and Tennessee had troops fighting in the battle on
both sides, hence the number twenty-one. Other states represented
will be Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi,
South Carolina, Texas, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The reenactors will march 40 miles from a point along the Natchez
Trace, encamping along the way, and into Franklin, ending up
at the Collins Farm property on Lewisburg Pike. STFB is
encouraging groups and the general public to sponsor the reenactor
representing the state of their choice on a "per mile"
basis. The pledge is completely tax-deductible and can be sent
to: Save The Franklin Battlefield, Inc., 418 Lewisburg
Ave., Franklin, TN 37064, attn: David Fraley / Fundraising March,
or by email
Save The Franklin Battlefield, Inc. is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3)
all-volunteer organization dedicated to saving a portion of
the Franklin Battlefield as a battlefield park. STFB works in
close co-operation with local governments and local, county,
state, and national historical organizations towards the preservation
and development of the rich Civil War legacy in Franklin and
Williamson County, TN. The organization leads tours of local
Civil War sites, provides speakers for various events, donates
to land acquisition projects, erects historic battlefield markers,
publishes a monthly newsletter, and maintains a web site. For
more information, call the STFB office at (615) 500-6612 or
visit their website at http://www.franklin-stfb.org/.
gets go-ahead on Highway connector through
SEVIERVILLE - A decision in Chancery Court was
handed down declaring part of the historic First Baptist Church
cemetery abandoned so that archaeological work can resume exhuming
bodies from the historic site. The decision created a fury among
historical preservationists, the Native
American Indian Movement, members of the Sevier County Chapters
of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and the
Daughters of the War of 1812, who said they were supposed to
be notified of a court date on the matter, but did not receive
any. DAR spokesperson Helen Allen, representatives from local
historical groups and a beat reporter were on hand when the
court made the ruling that will permit the graves to be moved
so the Highway 66 connector can be built through the cemetery.
"They never gave anyone an opportunity to talk in court
about it and how
we feel,"said DAR spokesperson Helen Allen. "Judge
Pelford Fogarty said that since there was no one in a position
to identify the bodies, he would sign the order. I just wish
he would have let some of us speak in the hearing. This was
something that TDOT wanted to do. I had to thank state archaeologist
Nick Fielder, however, for speaking up and correcting the TDOT
official who said that no one knew there was graves in the cemetery."
Historical preservationists and NAIM members gathered at the
cemetery last Thursday to protest the decision. "I am furious
that we were promised to be informed of the court date on this
cemetery and never heard anything until after the fact,"said
NAIM spokesman Carl Two Feathers Whittaker. "This is standard
operating procedure for TDOT when they want their way. This
road is going to accomplish nothing as far as help traffic,
except disturb and desecrate the graves of Native American women,
children, and their husbands who bravely served this nation
as soldiers and were the principal founders of this region.
This is one of the few cemeteries where you have veterans of
the American Revolution and the War of 1812 buried. The truly
sad part is that this cemetery was given to the City as a park
to hold in trust for future generations and this is a violation
of their duty."
Activists say they will continue to do what they can to stop
the road and are hopeful a change in the governorship will put
an end to historic sites being lost to road construction.
"There are just too many ways to avoid cutting through
this cemetery and possibly damaging it forever," said one
preservationist. "What bothers me is this total disregard
for the past we are seeing in Sevier County and across the state
to historic sites such as this. They seem to have no respect
for anything but the almighty dollar and, come election time,
we are going to remember those politicians in Sevierville and
Sevier County who pushed for this project over the protests
of their constituents. They may not care about their family's
dead, but we do and will do what we can to protect them."
"Orange Route"could threaten
Knox historic sites
KNOXVILLE - 14th District State Rep. H.E. Bittle came out of
his seat at a public meeting in August when TDOT Head Bruce
Saltsman announced they would begin construction on the so-called
"Orange Route"in the Hardin Valley region of West
Knox County. In one proposal, the highway would cut through
the cemetery of Col. Hardin, who was deeded the entire region
of Knox County for his service at the Revolutionary Battle of
King's Mountain a colonial victory by early Tennesseans often
referred to as one of the turning points of the American Revolution.
His grave site is considered a historic shrine of sorts to historians
who say it should not be desecrated.
In a closed door meeting with Saltsman and Gov. Sundquist, Bittle
was apparently told that the "Orange Route,"which
is seen primarily as a parallel road that serves no distinct
purpose in Knox County would not be built if Bittle and his
constituents did not want it. At the public meeting,
Saltsman said he did not remember the meeting.At that point,
Bittle leaped out of his chair and suit coat pointed his finger
at Saltsman and called him a liar. He took a few steps towards
the Transportation Commissioner, which caused two state troopers
to walk towards the 65-year-old state representative as if to
remove him from the meeting. Saltsman tried to continue with
his remarks at the meeting, but protests and cheers from those
supporting Bittle finally led the
Transportation Commissioner to turn to one of his people and
say disgustedly in an open microphone "Let's get the Hell
out of here."
Bittle's obvious outrage did a number on the Hardin Valley Precinct
though and brought voters out of the woodwork to vote for the
man who stood up to Saltsman and called him a liar. The legislator,
however, was running unopposed. Rep. Bittle questions the numbers
released that allegedly show
overwhelming support for the route.
"I don't know where they supposedly got the numbers that
show support for this route," said Rep. H.E. Bittle. "More
than 2,000 people have said they don't want this road and I
was told it would not be built as were many other people in
my district." Saltsman, who quipped he would be retiring
when Sundquist leaves office to play golf, had little comment
about Bittle's actions.
Historical and political action groups say they are preparing
to call for an investigation into TDOT and it's handling of
"This has really made Gov. Don Sundquist one of the most
hated men in Tennessee politics and this will really threaten
the state's Republican party in November," said one Knoxville
political activist. "We have heard where he has threatened
to cut off money to counties if the representatives won't
rein in their constituents who are trying to stop these road
projects. We know who they are and to think a governor
would try to silence taxpayers like that is just outrageous.
It doesnt make sense to most people to build new roads
when there are so many that need to be repaired now. TDOT and
it's commissioners need a thorough investigation and audit of
the money taxpayers have dumped into it during the last eight
named Bard Laureate of Tennessee
Star Journal managing editor
KNOXVILLE The annual Reagan Day Dinner in Knoxville was
a little disappointing when congressional candidates scheduled
to appear got held up in Washington on the Homeland Security
bill, but turned into a memorable evening for the more than
600 who attended the event.
This years dinner was a salute to American veterans of
Tennessee featuring Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient
and Department of Defense consultant Col. Lee Mize, USA, ret.
as the keynote speaker.
Star Journal news editor Ed Hooper was asked to deliver a tribute
to the veterans of Tennessee at the annual dinner. Before he
began, however, he was called to the stage where State Representative
Jamie Hagood (R-Knoxville) and the Knox County delegation presented
him with the legislation naming him the states official
Bard Laureate citing his "Looking Back" column,
his work on WVLT-TV of Knoxville and his other efforts in radio
and the Internet documenting the stories of Tennessees
veterans, his efforts ensuring that the graves of the states
Medal of Honor recipients were properly decorated and his coordination
of numerous educational exhibits on the states military
"When we asked the veterans of Tennessee who they wanted
to deliver a tribute," said South Foundation spokesperson
Keitha Kelley, "they unanimously chose Ed Hooper and were
responsible for assisting the Knox County delegation in him
being named Bard Laureate of Tennessee. The other honors that
followed were a surprise to everyone, including us."
Colt Firearms C.E.O. Gen. William Keyes and U.S. Rep. John J.
Duncan, Jr. (R-Tennessee) presented Hooper with a W.W. II-era
Colt. 45.The firearm was accompanied by an official letter from
the Colt Historians office authenticating its manufacture
for the event.
"We present this commemorative W.W. II model .45 to Ed
Hooper in recognition of his dedicated work as a broadcast and
print journalist in documenting the lives of Tennessee veterans,"
said Gen. William Keyes, "... We join those here tonight
in congratulating and commending Mr. Hooper on his efforts and
achievements in preserving the memories of the brave Americans
who have so honorably served this nation."
The most surprising moment in the pre-speech ceremony came from
the Ireland House of Lords, who sent a letter congratulating
Hooper on his being named Bard Laureate.
"Since ancient times, the title of Bard was bestowed only
on those rare individuals who proved themselves to be proper
custodians of our peoples culture and heritage,"
said Lord John Laird of Artigarvan, Ireland. "Your work
as a broadcaster and journalist is to be commended by both our
nations for assisting in preserving a shared heritage that has
bound our peoples together for more than 300 years. We extend
our grateful appreciation for your efforts and on this momentous
occasion and on behalf of the Ireland House of Lords congratulate
you on this hard-earned honor."
U.S. Special Forces Col. Lee Mize, MOH Korea, in a rare
show of emotion, hugged Hooper as he took the stage to deliver
his keynote address. Col. Mize has spoken at numerous events
in Knox and Sevier County and is regarded as one of the nations
most decorated soldiers.
"Ed is a great friend of mine and a reporter who helped
keep the flames of patriotism alive long before Sept. 11,"
said Col. Mize. "If people really knew how much he has
done with so little to see that the stories of Tennessees
brave men and women who served this nation are not forgotten,
they would feel the same way."
"I really dont know what to say except I am honored,"
said Hooper, "and hope I can continue my work. A problem
today is that everyone is telling and retelling the same stories
of a few American veterans and overlooking the heroes in our
own state. The lives of these brave men and women are some of
the greatest stories ever told."
residents fight to save historic
J. Allen Smith home
KNOXVILLE The Knoxville City Council and Cherokee Country
Club are locked in a battle over the historic J. Allen Smith
home, which sits next to the prestigious Knoxville club.
At issue, is the clubs desire to tear the house down to
add a parking lot and a putting green.and Knoxville officials
who want to find a way to preserve the structure. Mayor Victor
Ashe, who is a life long resident of the area, sides with the
preservationists in wanting to save the home from destruction
by declaring it a historic landmark a move which angers
officials with the Cherokee Country Club, who stated recently
that the home has no historic value that should prevent them
from tearing it down.
J. Allen Smith was a prominent Knoxville businessman who started
the White Lilly Flour Company in Knoxville. The flour became
a staple in Tennessee and across the South and was named in
the 1990s as the most sought after gourmet flour by some of
Americas most prominent chefs in New York City.
Smith was also a major figure in the industrial and economical
development of Knoxville and Tennessee in the early years of
the 21st century. He was from the era of such prominent businessmen
as Westin Fulton, who made Knoxville one of the Souths
most prominent cities. Smiths official portrait hangs
in the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville and, while his company
still operates in Knoxville, there is little recognition of
him in his hometown.
There has been numerous ideas put forth as to what the home
could be used for in the city, but none has taken root as the
city finds itself facing court action to try and save the structure.
"My hope is that arguments are not made to save the house
solely on its architectural styling," said
one preservationist. "Too many times when the professional
historians and preservationists get involved, the human
story and accomplishments are lost or minimized to the point
that the real reason to save a structure are lost. What could
happen is, instead of seeing the house be preserved properly
and proper historical interpretation done to honor J. Allen
Smith and the business people of that era, it could end up like
Episcopal Rev. Thomas Humes old home sitting in
a city warehouse somewhere numbered brick by brick by Knoxville
Heritage and no plans to ever rebuild it. Once that is done,
you lose the nuances that could make it a popular historical
Knoxville is joining a long list of cities fighting to preserve
old historic structures and homes from encroaching development.
Many are being torn down or falling into decay and preservationists
are being overwhelmed trying to save them. Rising property taxes
and the costs of refurbishing and maintaining the old homes
scares off many potential buyers, who can take care of the structures.
The battle is expected to continue to preserve the Smith Home
and those Knoxville city officials in favor of it are hoping
the matter can be resolved that suits both the interests of
the Cherokee Country Club and historical preservationists.
On Tuesday, July 9. the Knoxville City Council passed on second
and final reading an act that would give the home "historic
overlay" and protect it from destruction. Officials say
now the next step for the Cherokee Country Club may be to file
suit against the city.
Historical Commission could face
cuts in staff and funding
NASHVILLE One of the agencies who made appearances before
the legislative committees in the financial budget battle was
the Tennessee Historical Commission. The Commission received
$1.5 million last year from the states massive budget.
The THC is part of the Tennessee Department of Environment and
Conservation and in the past years has served as funnel for
dispersing more than $500 million dollars aimed at protecting
and preserving the states historical sights and heritage.
One of the plans put forward would not abolish it, but would
cut the staff of the Commission back to one person. Many historical
preservationists say that cutting the staff to one member would
be a huge blow to Tennessees developing heritage tourism
industry and make it impossible for any Tennessee counties to
get funding from the National Park Service, who distributes
grants through the Historical Commission. In addition, a powerful
lobbying voice in making sure moneys promised tot he parks and
other projects get to where they are needed rather than being
shuffled around in the massive National Park System.
Numerous historical sites are already operating on reduced budgets
and placing donation boxes in the areas to give a way for those
who visit them to offer support and some are looking at laying
off staff to make sure the money collected will be used to preserve
the sites historical integrity.
"Heritage tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry that
the state is just now beginning to take advantage of,"
said state preservationist Jerry Lessenberry, "and, if
the legislature is going to work to save the Department of Tourism,
then they need to do the same for the Historical Commission.
Both of these agencies are in their own way money-making entities
for the state. Some say if we lose preservation funds, tax write-offs
for the renovation of historic buildings will disappear and
that would be disastrous for Tennessee. Between the Historical
Commission and the Tennessee Museum, this state preserves and
holds some of the nations most valuable historical treasures
and to see them all locked away, projects to preserve battlefields
and houses stopped and the ceasing of collecting artifacts in
the future would be a tragedy this state could ill afford and
a bad judgment call."
Many say the scare that the Commission will be severely reduced
in staff or eliminated is extremely low.
"At this time," said one Senator, " everyone
is trying to scare people and state agencies into thinking that
they are going to be eliminated or crippled by cuts in order
to build support for this plan or another. I will agree that
all agencies need to be looked at and some changes made to make
them more efficient or more capable to do what they are supposed
to, but eliminating key agencies that aid this state in making
money is cutting off our noses to spite our face. In a worse
case scenario, I would want to see the Historical Commission
made capable of taking on more responsibilities not less. There
are parks and such that they could probably better manage and
interpret in ways that would attract more tourists."