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 Golfers Insist Bend Course Stay

Golfers Insist Bend Course Stay

Free Press Staff Writer

The outlining of an $18 million National Park Service plan to take over Moccasin Bend within 10 years elicited sharp comments from an audience of golfers, American Indians and others Tuesday night at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Most of those at the standing-room-only open forum were supporters of the Moccasin Bend Public Golf Club, which would be removed under the Park Service plan. Indian spokeswoman for the Western Band of the Cherokee Nation Nancy Crow noted that Indian burial sites and her people's extensive history at the Bend cannot be moved, but "you can have a golf course anywhere.'

She said people are "golfing on the graves of our ancestors,' emphasizing her point by swinging an imaginary golf club.

A second American Indian, who favors a national park, said that the whole of Moccasin Bend is a sacred site with no place for a golf course.

Park Service representative Mike Spratt presented a draft cooperative management plan outlining two alternatives for the future of the Bend.

The first alternative would leave Moccasin Bend in its present state.

The second would provide for 946 acres of Moccasin Bend to become a part of the National Park Service, with a 10-year, four-step acquisition and transition phase. The plan includes the removal of the golf club, the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Hospital, WDEF's two radio towers, the law enforcement firearms training range and a site used by model plane enthusiasts. There was discussion of utilities including gas pipelines and underground electric transmission lines.

The entire process, along with riverbank stabilization and park development costs, would require about $18 million, according to the Park Service.

The golfers there made clear their approval and desire for a national park at Moccasin Bend. However, golf course operator Wesley Brown said, "There's no real logical reason why the golf course can't remain a buffer (between the national park and the sewage treatment plant).'

Mr. Brown said that since construction began in 1965 no evidence of an American Indian burial ground has been uncovered in the golf course area. But, he added, if archaeological investigations are desired, "we'll help set aside some sites ... to determine really what is there.'

The American Indian concern focused on Moccasin Bend's 10,000-year history of Indian habitation, burial and the subsequent removal of ancestral remains.

"We would like to see these ... remains repatriated and reburied on site,' said James Bird of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. "We are in favor of the preservation and protection (Moccasin Bend) can be afforded by becoming a part of the National Park Service.'

A representative from the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Hospital expressed concern over the complete demise of the hospital and the abandonment of the mental health community, and hope for merely a relocation to modern facilities.

Robin Derryberry, a field representative for Rep. Zach Wamp, advised the audience that the congressman is "very concerned about making sure that the needs of the mental health community are adequately addressed in the future.

"He is also very concerned that the golf course serves as a natural buffer to the sewage treatment plant.'

Jay Mills, vice president of the Friends of Moccasin Bend, estimated the economic impact of the park and interpretative center would be $20 million per year. And Bob Hunter, a Friends board member, estimated the park's annual attendance will be from 441,000 to 639,000.

Mr. Spratt reminded all attendees that the public comments and opinions being taken through Nov. 5 would be forwarded to Congress, where the ultimate decision rests.

Many speakers noted that the cooperation of all interested parties would serve the community best.

"When we get together, we can accomplish anything,' said one speaker. "Let's make it (the park) happen.'

Prepared 12:47 on 21-OCT-98

Copyright 1998, The Chattanooga Free Press