published Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Building may be removed from Cravens House site

Park official Jim Szyjkowski walks near an early 1900s house that may be torn down adjacent to Cravens House on Lookout Mountain.
Park official Jim Szyjkowski walks near an early 1900s house that may be torn down adjacent to Cravens House on Lookout Mountain.
Photo by Dan Henry.

PLAN OPTIONS

The management plan has three alternatives, labeled A, B and C.

* Alternative A is the "no action" option that's required in all such federal planning exercises.

* Alternative B calls for improvements so visitors can experience a landscape similar to that existing during the Civil War.

* Alternative C calls for the same changes as Alternative B, with additional work and access to more sites by vehicle.

Cravens House

* Alternative B: Interior closed to public.

* Alternative C: Cravens House open to visitors with exhibits inside. Parking moved to Williams property. Restrooms may be added.

* Both alternatives: Removal of non-Civil War buildings, including the Williams House and ranger's cabin. Move powerlines or bury them underground.

Point Park

* Both alternatives: Removal of ranger cabin and other non Civil War buildings. Develop permanent exhibit at Ochs Museum.

Sanders Road Picnic Area

* Alternative B: Allowing picnicking, but reduce size of area. Replace first restroom with vault toilet, with removal of nonworking restrooms.

* Alternative C: Remove all restrooms and picnic facilities. Keep parking for trail access.

Wauhatchie sites

* Both plans: The sites would incorporated into the Lookout Mountain Battlefield. Wauhatchie Site 2 would be called New York Monument. Wauhatchie Site 3 would be called Smith Hill.

New Lookout Valley Lands:

* Alternative B: Possible interpretive site at Tyndale Hill.

* Alternative C: Possible interpretive sites at Tyndale Hill, Bald Hill, Geary's Crossing and Confederate Defense Site

Former Pan-O-Ram Club Site

* Alternative B: Develop the site as a formal overlook that could include a driveway, small parking lot and viewing area with exhibits. Selective vegetation removal to enhance Missionary Ridge views.

* Alternative C: Develop the site as a formal overlook that could include a driveway, small parking lot and viewing area with exhibits. Selective vegetation removal to enhance Missionary Ridge views. Restrooms may be added. A trailhead would connect the site to the Guild Trail.

Ochs Gateway

* Alternative B: No changes. Truck Trails would continue to be multiuse trails. John Smartt Trail would stay a hiking trail.

* Alternative C: Consider connecting regional multiuse trails with Jackson Gap Trail. Consider designating a section of John Smartt Trail as multiuse to allow mountain bikes.

PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT

National Park Service planners will accept public comments on proposed improvements to Lookout Mountain Battlefield until April 8. Park Service planners in Colorado put the plan together and will compile the public comments.

Go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/chch to submit comments online.

Cravens House was a landmark during the Civil War, when the white house halfway up Lookout Mountain was a target for Union artillery aiming from Moccasin Bend.

Robert Cravens, co-owner of Bluff Furnace, Chattanooga's first coke-fueled blast furnace, bought 1,000 acres on Lookout Mountain and built Cravens House as a permanent residence -- the mountain's first.

And then he rebuilt the house -- after the battle-following Washington press corps tore it apart to use the wood.

"It certainly survived the battles in 1863. But it didn't survive the press," said Jim Szyjkowski, chief of resource management for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. "The press corps tore it down."

The landmark house is now only open for special events. But it may open to the public on a daily basis.

Turning Cravens House into a visitors center is one of the ideas proposed by the National Park Service as it updates its management plan for Lookout Mountain Battlefield -- the land, trails, buildings, historic monuments and Civil War battlefields the Park Service owns from the foot of the mountain to its peak.

Historic preservation is the thrust of the plan. The idea is to have the battlefields look as they did during the Civil War.

"The goal would be, 'What do you need to see here to reinterpret the battle?" Szyjkowski said.

For example, the plan calls for moving or burying powerlines that mar the view near Cravens House, getting rid of a vacant ranger's cabin built there in the '70s, and possibly planting an orchard like the one there during the Civil War.

Also slated for removal is the Williams House, a slate-roofed, '20s-era, Tudor-style home next to Cravens House that the Trust For Public Land bought and then sold to the park.

Getting the big house up to code would cost an estimated $1.2 million, park officials say. But the Williams House mainly has to go, they say, because it was built long after the Civil War.

"The Williams family are OK with our removing their house," Szyjkowski said. "They've made peace with it."

The National Park Service unveiled the Lookout Mountain plan on Feb. 28 at back-to-back public meetings held at the St. Elmo fire hall.

The plan hasn't been controversial, Szyjkowski said. What's probably gotten the most attention, he said, is the prospect of opening a section of John Smartt Trail near the Ochs Gateway as multiuse to allow mountain biking.

"Most of the comments at the open house seemed to be toward the recreation part of this," Szyjkowski said.

Jeffrey Schaarschmidt, a Chattanooga attorney who is president of the Tennessee Mountain Bike Alliance, likes the idea of opening up John Smartt Trail to mountain bikes.

"I think it's a great thing," said Schaarschmidt, who said it allows students at Covenant College to bike to other trails that already are open to mountain biking -- instead of having to haul their bikes there by car.

Schaarschmidt said mountain bikers get along with hikers and other trail users in the Chattanooga area.

The public can pick and choose from each of three management plan alternatives. Park officials are looking for the reasons behind commenters' choices, Park Service project manager Erin Flanagan said at an open house.

"It's that 'because' piece that really helps us," Flanagan said. "That 'because' lets us know what's behind your thinking."

Comments aren't limited to people from the Chattanooga area.

"They can comment from anywhere in the country," Park Superintendent Cathy Cook said. National Park lands are "for all the people -- no matter where you live," she said.

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

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties 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. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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