Fran Mainella, a former National Park Service director and the first female director of the agency, called Monday for parks to maintain their relevance for the next 100 years, as the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday.
Mainella shared her experiences and perspectives with an audience of 80 listeners as part of the kickoff for the Friends of Moccasin Bend 11th annual lecture series, hosted by the Camp House on Monday evening.
Mainella said she envisioned a "seamless system" that incorporated partnerships between parks, community stakeholders, advocates and other parks during the six years she spent leading the National Park Service, as well as the 12 years serving as Florida's director of state parks prior to that. She praised the efforts of park friends organizations, volunteers and other supporters.
While she cited funding and security as core challenges facing parks at the national, state and even local level, maintaining the connection between those spaces and future generations underscored all concerns, Mainella said.
"How do we reach today's young people?" she asked.
Mainella also praised the 2003 decision to incorporate Moccasin Bend within the National Park Service park units, which occurred while she served as agency director.
Michael Wurzel, executive director of the Friends of Moccasin Bend, urged the audience to continue its support for the park.
"The Moccasin Bend archeological district — the largest green space in downtown Chattanooga preserving nationally significant American Indian and Civil War resources — lacks the proper visitor experiences for people to really discover and connect with the park," Wurzel said.
Community planning continues for the park, including the possibility of connecting the Moccasin Bend experience with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Audience member Steve Krohner said he has attended the lectures for six or seven years and found them fascinating.
"I truly love national parks," Krohner said.
The Friends of Moccasin Bend fall lecture series continues on Oct. 3 when Sewanne music professor Stephen Miller presents "The Sounds of Music in Cades Cove: Nature, National Parks and Shape-note Singing." The series concludes with local historian Sam D. Elliots' presentation, "Ten Little Known Facts about the Civil War in Chattanooga," on Nov. 14.
For more information on the lecture series, visit Friends of Moccasin Bend online at moccasinbendpark.org.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.