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Government tries to seek settlement on ‘Road to Nowhere’

Remembering Pilkey’s Creek on the North Shore

Tennessee joins private groups in
preservation project

Tennessee joins private groups in
preservation project

W.W.II’s ‘Band of Brothers’ to hold 60th Reunion

Reenactors to march to help save Franklin Battlefield

TDOT gets go-ahead on Highway connector through
historic cemetery

Controversial "Orange Route"could threaten
Knox historic sites

Hooper named ‘Bard Laureate’ of Tennessee

Knoxville residents fight to save historic
J. Allen Smith home

Tennessee Historical Commission could face
cuts in staff and funding


 


Government tries to seek settlement on
‘Road to Nowhere’

GATLINBURG – They have names like Bone Valley, Hazel Creek and Pilkey’s 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 road’s 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 isn’t 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 nation’s 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 isn’t 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.


Remembering Pilkey’s Creek on the North Shore


KNOXVILLE – Pilkey’s 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 wasn’t 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 Pilkey’s Creek cemetery, he walked to his brother’s 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 family’s 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 well."
Editor’s 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 Pilkey’s Creek cemetery to show their children and grandchildren the graves of their grandfathers and grandmothers and the homeplace that once belonged to their family.


Tennessee joins private groups in preservation project

KNOXVILLE - 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 Tennessee‚s 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 property‚s 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 state‚s 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
President 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 world‚s 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 O‚Brien, 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 the future."


W.W.II’s ‘Band of Brothers’ to hold 60th Reunion


CHATTANOOGA – The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment will return to it’s 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 Battalion’s march across open country set the world’s 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 W.W.II.
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 unit’s 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 today’s 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.


Reenactors 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 a place."
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
maurygreys@aol.com
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/.


TDOT gets go-ahead on Highway connector through
historic cemetery


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."


Controversial "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 road projects.
"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 doesn‚t 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 years.


Hooper named ‘Bard Laureate’ of Tennessee

Linda Lewanski
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 year’s 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 state’s 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 Tennessee’s veterans, his efforts ensuring that the graves of the state’s Medal of Honor recipients were properly decorated and his coordination of numerous educational exhibits on the state’s military heritage.
"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 people’s 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 nation’s 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 Tennessee’s brave men and women who served this nation are not forgotten, they would feel the same way."
"I really don’t 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."


Knoxville 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 club’s 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 America’s 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 South’s most prominent cities. Smith’s 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 landmark."
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.

Tennessee 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 state’s 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 state’s 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 Tennessee’s 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 nation’s 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."


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