IF YOU GO
What: Public meeting about the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park's general management plan amendment for Lookout Mountain
When: Two separate presentations; one at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28
Where: St. Elmo Fire Hall, 4501 St. Elmo Ave., Chattanooga
To see the plan online after the Feb. 28 meetings, go to www.nps.gov/chch
Mark your calendar if you'd like to weigh in on a plan that might open up more of Lookout Mountain's trail system to mountain biking.
That's one of the issues the public will weigh in on when the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park releases a proposed general management plan amendment in February for land it owns on Lookout Mountain. The federal park's acreage includes trails that wind through the mountain's wooded slopes and Point Park that commemorates the Civil War's famous "Battle Above the Clouds."
"In the last decade, we have had nearly 400 acres of land added," park Superintendent Cathy Cook said.
One of the new park-owned properties is the Williams House, a large, slate-roofed home next to Cravens House. The plan will weigh what to do with it as well as a vacant caretaker's cabin at Cravens House and an empty ranger's residence at Point Park.
Cook didn't think it would make sense to lease the empty residences as restaurants or bed and breakfasts, because such businesses already exist on Lookout Mountain.
Regarding mountain bikers, Cook said the plan will consider a new trailhead at the Ochs Gateway near Covenant College that would lead to the Upper Truck Trail, an old fire road that's open to cycling. That would improve students' trail access.
Robyn Carlton is CEO of the Lookout Mountain Conservancy that owns and maintains the Guild and Hardy trails that are open to mountain biking. She likes the idea of expanding cyclists' opportunity to ride the mountain's trails.
"It will help keep cyclists off the roads and give them a very safe place where they can go up the mountain," Carlton said.
Cook didn't want to divulge many specifics about the land management proposal before it's released. Public meetings at which park officials will explain the plan's three land management alternatives will be held Feb. 28 at St. Elmo Fire Hall.
National Park planners based in Denver came to Lookout Mountain to help draw up the management plan and will be at the February meetings, Cook said.
The Park Service hasn't updated its plan for Lookout Mountain since 1988.
"It's been a while," Cook said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.