After a boat tour of Moccasin Bend on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander smiled coyly, but proudly, when acknowledging that he is a history buff.
The Tennessee Republican recently saw an early screening of the new Ken Burns documentary on national parks, and the first speech he ever gave on the Senate floor was about the importance of helping children understand the nation's history, he said.
Promoting preservation of historic resources, such as those found at the Moccasin Bend Archaeological District, is a high priority for him, Sen. Alexander said.
"Our country is not based on race or religion," he said. "It is based on a common language, a common history and a few common principles. If we don't understand our history, we become the United Nations instead of the United States of America."
ON THE WEB
For more information about Moccasin Bend visit http://www.moccasinbendpark.org.
* Moccasin Bend is a sub-unit of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
* In 2003, there were 775 acres added and designated the Moccasin Bend National Archaeological District.
* The area contains artifacts from about 12,000 years of human civilization.
On Thursday, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park leaders, such as Superintendent Shawn Benge, updated Sen. Alexander and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., about three ongoing Moccasin Bend projects during a tour of Moccasin Bend on the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer boat.
"The first project is a resource protection project," Mr. Benge said. "It relates to bank stabilization along the shoreline of the bend."
The shoreline, which extends more than five miles, is eroding, losing more than a foot a year, Mr. Benge said. Losing the river bank means losing resources, he said.
The bank stabilization project will begin this fall, he said.
Mr. Benge also updated Sen. Alexander, Rep. Wamp and dozens of national park supporters about Moccasin Bend's new interpretive center, which will be at its entrance off Manufacturers Road.
Amenities for the center include an interactive museum, theater lectures, audio-visual presentations and classroom space, Mr. Benge said. It also will be connected to downtown Chattanooga through the Riverwalk and water taxis, he said.
Officials have secured $500,000 in funds to begin the design of the interpretative center, Mr. Benge said.
Leaders said the proximity of the bend to downtown is a good tourist draw and beneficial for Chattanooga-area residents.
"This will be very important because it is so close to so many people," Sen. Alexander said.
The last project is a 20-year management plan that will be a blueprint for two decades of National Park Service operations and facilities around Chattanooga. The previous management plan was created in 2003 before Moccasin Bend was added to the park.
The Friends of Moccasin Bend group has been working for about 50 years to preserve the historic area, Rep. Wamp said.
"I think it was handed down from generation to generation, this moral obligation to preserve this nationally significant place called Moccasin Bend," he said.