Battlefield may get donation from Trump's salary
The president may have a present for the Chickamauga battlefield: about $78,000 out of his own pocket for preservation work at the nation's oldest battlefield park.
President Donald Trump said he would donate his $400,000-a-year presidential salary back to the Treasury. In April, he gave the $78,000 from his first three months' pay to the National Park Service.
At the time, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the money would be spent in U.S. military parks.
"We're going to dedicate it and put [it] against the infrastructure on our nation's battlefields," Zinke said in a press briefing. "We're about $100 million or $229 million behind in deferred maintenance on our battlefields alone."
Last week, USA Today reported the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is at the top of a list of three. The popular park had more than 1 million visitors last year and could start work on two projects right away: repairing erosion on Point Park Trail and restoring the 1938-era Ochs Museum.
The other battlefield parks are at Vicksburg, Miss., and Kings Mountain, S.C.
Tom Crosson, spokesman for the National Parks Service, said the president specified the donation go to a battlefield preservation project, but the parks service came up with the list of finalists.
"We have a variety of parks that have a variety of projects that need to get done," Crosson said by phone Wednesday. "They're projects that could be accomplished with that money."
USA Today also reported Trump would be able to deduct the donation on his federal income taxes.
The battles for Chickamauga raged between September and November 1863 as Union and Confederate armies clashed over control of Chattanooga, a rail center considered the gateway to the heart of the Confederacy, according to the park website. Eventually the Union troops prevailed and the Confederates retreated south into Georgia.
Tricia Mims, with the Friends of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, pointed out in an email that the view from Point Park is among the most iconic images of Chattanooga and is featured on the city and county seals.
She said the Friends group raises thousands of dollars each year restoration projects and that "We appreciate and welcome all support from the public toward that end."
"We hope the recent publicity surrounding the considerable deferred maintenance needs for the entire national park system will inspire Chattanoogans to join the Friends in giving back locally to support our park that means so much to our community," Mims said.
Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi is also a landmark Civil War site.
"Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together. Vicksburg is the key," the park service website says. If the Union controlled Mississippi River at Vicksburg, it could stop the flow of supplies to the Confederates and split the South.
Kings Mountain, in Blacksburg, S.C., dates back to the Revolutionary War. The Oct. 7, 1780, battle of Kings Mountain was the fledgling nation's first major victory after the British invaded Charleston in May of that year. Founding father and second president Thomas Jefferson called it "the turn of the tide of success," the park service website says.
Heather Swift, spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior, said Wednesday via email that no decision has been made on the choice of projects.
Crosson added, "We're just waiting on the final decision. Once we get that we could work with the region and the parks to get the project going."
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at [email protected] or 423-757-6416.