If you’re planning for the future, you’d better be thinking about preserving the past, too, history buffs say. One doesn’t happen without the other.
“We learn the lessons of history, and it definitely determines which course we take in the future if we understand where we come from,” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.
Rep. Wamp, a history enthusiast, was one of several state and local officials at Point Park on Monday morning to celebrate a 382-acre expansion of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Even as officials atop Lookout Mountain celebrated the acquisition, they said they’re always looking to future expansions, future generations and future funding.
“Preservation of our nation’s battlefields is critical in maintaining the links in the moments of history that define us as a nation,” park Superintendent Shawn Benge said.
And those links are getting more tenuous, at least when it comes to putting feet on historic soil. While many baby boomers frequently travel to historic sites, younger generations tend to go online to research history instead of reading a plaque on a Civil War monument, park officials said.
As expansion and development of the park continues, officials said they’ll try to implement more technology-friendly devices to keep young minds engaged, Mr. Benge said, everything from PowerPoint presentations to audio tours.
Staff Photo by John Rawlston-- U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., left, and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., listen as Shawn Benge, right, superintendent of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, speaks during a ceremony Monday to celebrate a major land acquisition that will expand Point Park.
Lisa Everett from South Bend, Ind., visiting Lookout Mountain on Monday, said there’s nothing like visiting a national park to educate children. On the way to Florida when she and her family stopped at Lookout Mountain, Mrs. Everett said she homeschools her children and, while it may sound trite, history comes alive at a battlefield.
“Children are very imaginative and to see something and experience it in a different way is much more powerful than a book,” she said.
While there are no immediate, concrete plans for other expansions at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, officials said they’re always looking for willing land donors.
“There are certainly lands in our area that were part of the story of the Battle of Chickamauga or the Battle for Chattanooga, that are not now part of the National Park properties,” park spokesman Sam Weddle said. “The National Park Service has continued interest in bringing in some of these significant pieces of property.”
The 382 acres was the backdrop for important Civil War action. On Nov. 24, 1863, during the fabled “Battle Above the Clouds,” Union troops forced Confederate soldiers to give up Lookout Mountain. The physical and psychological blow started a series of critical setbacks for the Confederacy, Park Historian Jim Ogden said.
The tract of land extends to the Georgia border and Mr. Benge said the park has the authority to acquire more land within a mile of the existing boundary.
Officials said they’ll also work to make the new property accessible to park visitors.
“In terms of visitor experience, there would certainly be interest in having that area more available to the visitor,” Mr. Weddle said. “But we will kind of defer answering that question until we get through the planning process.”
Since the addition of parts of Moccasin Bend to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 2003, officials have been outlining a plan for that portion of the park. They’re researching five possible options for the Moccasin Bend land, which range from only having occasional tours led by park rangers to building an expanded interpretation facility with a conference center, restaurant and amphitheater.
A final decision should be made by November or December, Mr. Benge said.
Securing land is important, officials said, because it will help tell the story of the nation’s history to future generations.
Rep. Wamp and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said they will continue to support further expansion and preservation.
“We should leverage our seniority and our clout and our energy to do this,” Rep. Wamp said. “This is what makes the quality of life in Southeast Tennessee what it is today. This is what makes young people excited about their future.”
Sen. Alexander said there is some resistance by lawmakers to spend money on preservation of history and land, but it’s something the majority of Americans support.
“The American people have a high value for this history, and we have a high value for the outdoors,” he said. “And we want to spend a reasonable amount of money to make sure it is here for our children and grandchildren.”
Sen. Alexander also outlined steps Congress can take to help preservation. About 40 years ago, Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helped pay for the park’s new land, he said. But it has only been in recent years that money is being saved for such projects, Sen. Alexander said.
In 2005, Congress decided to give $1 out of every $8 made through off-shore oil and gas drilling to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This year, $6 million will go into the fund, he said.
“Here is a way, with gas prices at $3.50 and a great need in urban areas for parks such as this, we can increase the supply of oil, lower gas prices and use some of that money to create parks and greenways, and save the open space in our country,” he said.