Bob Willie, Chairman
Gloria Bowen, Vice-Chairman
John Edwards, Secretary
Mike Costello, Treasurer
August 29, 1994
Mr. Daniel Carey
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Southern Regional Office
456 King Street
Charleston, S.C. 29403
Thank you for talking with me recently about the current status of the Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association and our negotiations with Hamilton County regarding possible siting of an open air amphitheater on Moccasin Bend. Our mission is to bring our community's heritage to life in a soft surface, naturally formed amphitheatre in an historically significant area. For many reasons, the three and one-half acre site known as Lilly Springs Hollow on Moccasin Bend best meets our criteria.
While the actual amphitheatre will sit on three and one-half acres, forty total acres are required to provide ample buffer from noise and also to afford the sense of pilgrimage back in time. If the site is made available, parking would be on an already cleared and graded area in the "spoils" portion of the Bend. In future, other historic dramas could be added if the organization is as successful as projected. Possible riverboat access would offer another aspect to the pilgrimage through time we will provide. We believe that Chattanooga's vivid history in an historic site beneath canopies of trees will prove an incredible combination. The initial archaeological survey reports no significant findings at Lilly Springs Hollow or or the surrounding acreage.
As you know, the forty acre site best suited to our purposes is now owned by the State of Tennessee and is part of the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute property. During discussions held between the State and Hamilton County two years ago, it was apparent that the State would be willing to declare the land surplus and allow the County to work out a swap of some kind. The County was advised to proceed with the archaeological report before trying to acquire the property, and the lengthy process of accepting proposals and securing both funding and the actual study created a gap in communications on both State and local levels.
As the County proceeds with an EDA grant application for that site, members of the Outdoor Drama Association who attended their public hearing hearing have become increasingly impressed with the need for a comprehensive plan for Moccasin Bend. Following Association meetings with representatives from the preeminent local planning agency and the City and County, we are very pleased to learn that the RiverValley Partners Board of Directors agreed to supervise and monitor a comprehensive land use plan for Moccasin Bend. Their involvement is contingent upon Hamilton County securing funding. This kind of thoughtful, comprehensive plan has been sought for many years, and will certainly be of great value to the community. I have advised RiverValley of your interest in participation and possible funding. Rob Taylor of RiverValley's Urban Design Studio will contact you as arrangements for the planning are finalized.
We have begun meeting with representatives of other groups who share an interest in the legacy of Moccasin Bend. Native American groups indicate some common ground in which we may be able to assist them in achieving some of their objectives in exchange for a more cooperative attitude toward our efforts. We plan to continue to meet with small groups and try to establish more "common ground".
In the coming months, the Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association will seek to broaden support for our plans to bring Chattanooga's unique heritage to new generations. Many challenges lie ahead. As actual site work waits for the recommendations of the overall plan for the Bend, we will move ahead in selecting the best playwright for our production. Please keep us informed of the progress of the comprehensive plan, and know that we offer our full support and cooperation.
With Warmest Regards,
Meg Crimmins Beene
cc: Mr. Jim Bowen, RiverValley Partners
Mr. Rob Taylor, Urban Design Studio
Mr. Nick Fielder, Tennessee Division of Archaeology
Mr. Patrick Reed, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park
Mr. Paul Hartwig, Southeast Region - National Park Service
Mr. Herbert Harper, Tennessee Historical Commission
1. A. The mission of several local groups, including the Civil War Roundtable, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Chattanooga Regional Anthropological Association (CRAA), Sierra Club, and Chattanooga InterTribal Association (CITA) is to preserve our community's heritage and make it accessible to the community without resorting to the construction of a tourist attraction in a National Historic Landmark.
B. Our community's heritage includes Native American culture, a culture and people who were forcibly removed from this area in 1838, and who inhabited this area, including Moccasin Bend, for thousands of years prior to white encroachment. The Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association amphitheater seeks to place an amphitheater in historic Native American land while focusing their theatrical plans exclusively on the U.S. Civil War.
2. A. The 3.5 acres of Lily Springs Hollow proposed for use is within a specific Civil War site. The other acreage proposed for use as a parking lot--the so-called "spoils" taken from the southwest edge of the Bend when it was widened for commercial river traffic--that are "already cleared and graded," cover a vast area of unexamined Native American cultural remains and is considered by the Chattanooga InterTribal Association to be a significant Native American cultural site.
B. Other Chattanooga groups believe that another site, such as Pan Gap, would do as well to portray Chattanooga's "vivid history."
C. The initial archaeological survey done by UTC professor Nick Honerkamp found flint chips, flint tools, fire-cracked rock, pottery shards, flint chips, light scatter of daub, indicative of a hunting camp and high possibility of house sites and burials on the river bank. In the opinion of the archaeologist, more study needs to be done. Other groups in Chattanooga consider these findings significant and not dismissable by partisan and racist politics.
3. A. We believe that the State of Tennessee is no longer as willing to trade land on Moccasin Bend with the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County as indicated in the letter.
B. A primary gap of communication exists between local government bureaucracy and local citizens. Information about the city and county's joint efforts with the Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association (TODA) (headquartered in the county government annex, the M.L. King Building, next to the County's development office) and RiverValley Partners is not easily obtainable by private citizens, nor are any groups or persons who oppose the idea of siting an amphitheater on Moccasin Bend informed of these governmental decisions.
4. A. Hamilton County has not submitted its funding application to the EDA - the federal Economic Development Administration. Why?
The Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association and its Hamilton County governmental sponsors suffered a stunning public setback from the outcry of over one hundred citizens, severely threatening the success of their project unless they are able to keep the Chattanooga public ignorant of their back-door plans and of their attempts to procure funding from out-of-state sources.
B. There have been several "comprehensive" plans for Moccasin Bend in recent years:
6. A. We look forward to seeing among whom the Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association will attempt to broaden its support. Local support is soundly opposed to siting an amphitheater on Moccasin Bend. We believe that, as with this letter to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, outside groups will be requested on the grounds of disinformation campaigns like this letter, and possibly donations or grants made to these organizations by local big-money foundations in an attempt to either buy their approval or at least their silence in the commercial development of a National Historic Landmark and significant Native American cultural site.
B. Please keep us informed, too, of your support and/or cooperation with the Tennessee Outdoor Drama Association.