published Friday, September 6th, 2013

Battle of Chickamauga re-enactment hits snag as former Walker County candidate files complaint

  • photo
    The from above of of Mountain Cove Farms in Walker County, Ga. A complaint has been filed over environmental concerns about water runoff.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

McLEMORE'S COVE, Ga. — Both the North and South used hot air balloons to study troop movements during the Civil War.

Now, aerial photos taken from a private plane of some county-owned land have put a hitch in preparations for the Battle of Chickamauga's 150th anniversary re-enactment.

A state agency this week halted some of the work that Walker County, Ga., is doing at Mountain Cove Farm, the 1,839-acre site of the Sept. 19-22 event that's expected to draw 4,000 Civil War re-enactors and thousands of spectators.

After receiving aerial photos of a roughly 10-acre field that the county scraped to dirt to build a 28-space recreational vehicle park, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division told the county to halt work until it filed the proper environmental paperwork and installed erosion controls. The work is taking place on part of the county's 295 acres in the cove.

"The good news environmentally is ... there's no evidence of significant runoff or any problem," said Bert Langley Jr., manager of the Cartersville, Ga.-based Mountain District Office of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The state agency was tipped off by Ales Campbell, who in November 2012 ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign to unseat county Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.

Campbell sent Langley an Aug. 30 email that included three aerial photos of "this huge clearing" that she said a friend had taken that morning. Campbell wrote that no silt fence, hay or erosion barriers were in place, and she wondered if the state had issued permits.

The state agency inspected the site Tuesday, Langley said. The county -- which has finished grading the site -- voluntarily stopped the remaining RV park work.

Walker County has hired CTI Engineers Inc., of Chattanooga, to prepare environmental documentation required by the state to get the RV park under way again, said county Coordinator David Ashburn, who's in charge of work at Mountain Cove Farm.

"We felt like we were in compliance," Ashburn said. "If I weren't on such a tight schedule, I might argue the point."

The county still has lots to finish before the re-enactment, according to Ashburn, including laying down gravel roads and grass seed at the RV park -- which is already rented out for the re-enactment -- and finishing a pub and restaurant that will serve food, beer and wine in an annex of the 178-year-old Daugherty manor house on site.

"It's a game. It's a political game," Ashburn said of Campbell's complaint. "This is in the middle of a grass field not near any creeks. We have no runoff."

Campbell said, "I just want them to do things the way they're supposed to do things. That's not politics."

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division last year required Walker County to spend $65,000 on environmental projects as the penalty for releasing sediment into Rock Creek on March 26, 2012, from trail construction work done by a county crew.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

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.

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