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   This story appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 21, 1998.

Partisans discuss Bend's future

By Kevin Wiatrowski
The Chattanooga Times

The National Park Service on Tuesday night gave Chattanooga residents their final chance to speak about the fate of Moccasin Bend, and many people did so with passion and civility.

About 150 people packed the Tennessee Aquarium auditorium to hear the Park Service planner, Mike Pratt of Denver, outline the draft management plan for turning 946 acres of the Bend into a national park.

Spratt outlined what could be a 10-year, $20 million process of removing existing features on the Bend, including the Moccasin Bend Golf Club and the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute.

He stressed that the plan was only an assessment of the land's potential for becoming a park, not a formalized plan for the future.

"It's not our best guess of what the community wants," Spratt said. "It's our best guess of what would be best for the Bend."

The crowd seemed evenly split between Friends of Moccasin Bend, which has spent several years working toward national park status, and patrons of the golf club, who worry about losing the public course.

Most people at the hearing wore their loyalty on their chests as stickers from one group or another. A few wore both.

Members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, as well as other Native Americans, came to express their feelings about the history represented by ancient burial sites on the Bend.

Many, like Tom Kunish, had hard words for the golf course.

"The Moccasin Bend golf course is not a fit enterprise or guardian to exist on sacred ground," Kunish said.

Golf course president Ed Brown lamented that the course was not included in the early talks about a national park. If so, the course probably could have been removed from the proposed park boundary to avoid the current controversy, he said.

Friends vice president Jay Mills agreed that the golfers should have been included in past discussions.

"I'm glad they were here," he said after the hearing. "This is an issue that has needed to be discussed all along."

However, he stood firm on the notion that the golf course does not fit with any Park Service plan to preserve the 10,000-year-old Native American areas on the Bend.

Golfers have suggested keeping the course as a buffer between any national park and the city's wastewater treatment plant to the north. Some speakers suggested searching for a compromise that would keep the golf course or remove it from the land considered for park status.

"I think most everybody here that's a golfer would also like to see the park," said Bruce McDuffie, who wore both stickers.

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