published Friday, October 14th, 2011

Cellphone tower to be built near historic Civil War battlefield in Walker County

by Andy Johns
A cell tower is visible in the distance from Wilder Tower at the Chickamauga Battlefield in this file photo.
A cell tower is visible in the distance from Wilder Tower at the Chickamauga Battlefield in this file photo.
Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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    Future Cell Tower
    Staff Illustration by Laura McNutt

A cellular company scored a victory in a battle over a tower near Walker County Civil War sites, but the company made concessions to help the tower blend in.

“I think the tower people have met us halfway,” said John Culpepper, chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission and the city manager for Chickamauga. “I’d rather it be somewhere else, but those people need cell service down there.”

Culpepper and leaders of other Civil War groups were notified in February 2009 that American Tower Corp. planned to build a 278-foot cell tower near Davis Crossroads and McLemore Cove in Walker County. The area was taken by Union troops before a strategic withdrawal under Confederate fire Sept. 10 and 11 of 1863.

Preservationists around the state filed comments with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division and the cell company changed its design to a single-pole structure rather than three poles with lattice. The company also pledged to reduce the height to 199 feet and paint it to blend in with the backdrop.

With the modifications, the tower plans were approved by the state on Aug. 23.

Attempts to reach two representatives for American Tower were unsuccessful.

Culpepper acknowledged the need for the tower and signed off on the agreement with the concessions. Other groups refused to sign, though none of the additional signatures were required.

“We were hoping they would put it somewhere else,” said Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association. “That just didn’t happen.”

Crawford said it’s important to keep the sight lines similar to the way they were when the battle took place.

“Trying to preserve the way things were and the way things look is important to people trying to understand [the battle],” he said.

In 2010, the Civil War Trust named Chickamauga to its list of “At Risk” sites, specifically listing cell towers as a threat to the area’s historical integrity.

Trust spokeswoman Mark Koik said cell towers pose some of the toughest problems facing preservationists.

“We’re never going to ask a community to freeze in the 1860s,” she said.

She said the trust has had some luck getting tower companies to reconsider plans.

“I think most people want to make the best of the situation,” she said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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