News: Moccasin Bend riverbank stabilization project kicks off
Story by Leon Roberts
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s Moccasin Bend National Archeological District held a ceremony here today to celebrate the kick off of construction to stabilize the riverbank along the Tennessee River.
Maj. William Judson, deputy district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, spoke at the event about how the Corps is working with the National Park Service to reinforce the areas along the riverbank where erosion is eating away at the bank and threatening the park’s cultural resources.
“We pledge to do our work while keeping in mind that we must preserve and protect the important heritage contained in these lands,” Judson said.
Judson reported that the Corps is currently finalizing the requirements of the construction contract and expects to proceed with the work in late January starting at the downstream end of some existing riprap.
“Because of the importance of protecting these cultural resources, our contractor will perform all major work from the river and will not be allowed to disturb the banks,” Judson explained. “In addition, the contractor will hire an archeologist to monitor all activities on the bank and address any issues that arise.”
During the ceremony, the National Park Service paid tribute to U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp, Tennessee 3rd District, as he culminates 16 years of service to the nation.
Patrick Kenney, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park acting superintendent, welcomed the congressman and commended his outstanding support for Moccasin Bend.
“Moccasin Bend is a very important place for him,” Kenney said about Congressman Wamp. “He not only championed the legislation… he championed an interpretive center (to be) built here, and he championed the project for stabilizing the bank and protecting the valuable resources.”
The Congressman called the land “very special” and praised the efforts of all stakeholders who persevered as caretakers of Moccasin Bend.
“All I am is a person (who) is really privileged to be part of something bigger than any of us,” Wamp said. “The political winds blow this way and that way. And the budgets go up and they come down. And we have wars and we have problems. And the Congress spends its time and attention on things like the economy that frankly go through cycles also. But we must persevere. And we can’t let anything, whether it’s a budget downturn or an uptick, throw us off course.”
Wamp talked about the park’s vision at Moccasin Bend where people can visit, learn and realize the history, heritage and natural places. “That vision continues now through any of these gyrations that we go through in the world of politics, and that’s what we’re here today to celebrate.”
Wamp also addressed the importance of kicking off the riverbank stabilization project and how the National Park Service and Corps of Engineers are working together to bring this important project to fruition.
“We’re so grateful for this partnership between the Corps and the National Park Service,” Wamp stressed. “These are two of the good agencies of the federal government that do real important work.”
Mickey Robbins III, founding president of Friends of Moccasin Bend, thanked the National Park Service for what he described as “heroic efforts” to preserve Moccasin Bend. “Today is a testimony to the fact that everything does go forward with the efforts to preserve Moccasin Bend,” he said.
Robbins gave much credit to Congressman Wamp for leading the effort in Congress to preserve Moccasin Bend and obtaining the necessary appropriations in that effort.
“Elected officials get asked to do many things by their constituents,” Robbins said. “I think it’s very revealing that in the late summer of 1995 several of us from the Friends (of Moccasin Bend) went out to meet with Zack… and we spoke to him for three or four minutes. He said, ‘This is a great idea and I want to do it.’”
Robbins said Congressman Wamp’s great legacy will be the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District. “It will provide great opportunities for citizens and tourists to appreciate this unusually rich history out here. Today’s recognition of course is Zack’s latest accomplishment with stream bank stabilization. And that’s just another chapter in our efforts to preserve this great asset and to maximize its educational, recreational, and economic potential for generations to come.”
About the bend
Moccasin Bend is a peninsula formed by a prominent bend in the Tennessee River. It is situated to the west and just across the river from downtown Chattanooga.
Moccasin Bend National Archeological District contains nationally significant archeological sites that chronicle approximately 12,000 years of continuous American Indian occupation.
The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through portions of Moccasin Bend, commemorating the forced removal of Cherokee Indians from their ancestral homelands in 1838.
Important Civil War era earthworks and associated resources are also located along Stringers Ridge at the southeastern portion of the bend.
According to the National Park Service, interest in protecting Moccasin Bend from development has existed since the early 1900s. Beginning in the 1920s, various unsuccessful proposals were advanced to provide a public park on Moccasin Bend.
By the late 1940s, increasing recognition of the site’s importance began to galvanize broad public support for protecting the bend. Then in 1950, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the addition of 1,400 acres of Moccasin Bend to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Although state, county and city governments acquired lands at that time, they were not transferred to the National Park Service.
During the 1950s and 1960s, various facilities were constructed on Moccasin Bend, including a mental health hospital, golf course, waste water treatment plant, radio transmission towers, model airplane flying facility, and a law enforcement training center.
By the early 1990s, renewed support had emerged for the addition of Moccasin Bend to the national park system. Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park, a nonprofit organization formed in 1995, supported the initiative.
In 1998, the National Park Service prepared a draft Moccasin Bend Cooperative Management Plan and Environmental Assessment that favorably evaluated the suitability of the area as a new national park system unit based on the national importance of the area’s archeological and historical resources.
In 2003, Congress designated approximately 750 acres on the bend as the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District, a unit of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Included in the new unit was 420 acres from the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, 220 acres from the state of Tennessee, and 110 acres of private land.