Chickamauga and Chattanooga
Administrative History
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According to its 1890 enabling legislation, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was established "for the purpose of preserving and suitably marking for historical and professional military study the fields of some of the most remarkable maneuvers and most brilliant fighting in the war of the rebellion. . . ." [1] Although legislation in 1896 specified its additional use for military training purposes, clearly, the park's main purpose lay in the preservation and interpretation of these notable Civil War battlegrounds. As noted in preceding chapters, the stipulation regarding "military study" eventually was broadened beyond its original intent to incorporate military use from 1898 into the 1940s. Concurrent with the military use of the park was its increasing use for army recreational activities with little or no bearing on the park's central purpose. It is the continuation of this loose interpretation of the enabling act that has seemingly justified recent trends toward further recreational use. However beneficial these activities have proved in developing rapport with the surrounding community, they nonetheless remain inconsistent with the principles of establishment as laid down in 1890.

Early recreational use of the park probably occurred during its occupation by United States troops in 1898. Military occupation continued after the War with Spain, however, and early in the twentieth century was sustained with the establishment of Fort Oglethorpe whose troops continued to make use of different parts of the battlefield lands. A 1911 application by civilians to stage an " international automobile race " in the park was rejected as unbecoming as it would "turn over ground dedicated to the memory and deeds of heroic men to an electric, steam or gasoline race course. . . . " [2] Yet the Army continued to hold drag hunts on park property and even applied to use its fields as a landing strip for airplanes. [3] And in 1913 the War Department approved a request to hold a boy scout encampment at the park. [4] During the years leading to National Park Service administration the army continued its recreational use through drag hunts, playing polo on Wilder Field, and using McDonald Field for assorted athletic events. McDonald Field was later converted into a golf course and a horse show ring was also erected within the park. [5]

In 1934, after the War Department had relinquished control over the park to the Department of the Interior, efforts were begun to eliminate the Army's recreational interests. Assistant National Park Service Director Demaray protested that the golf course at McDonald Field "had no place in the park." [6] The golf course proved a further detriment after construction of the Administration Building was completed as it detracted from the structure's "proper character." [7] In addition, the course infringed on the historic scene while causing the destruction of historical terrain. Park Historian George F. Emery wrote that "greens have been built in and around battery positions equipped with cannon . . . [and the ground] has been considerably changed in appearance." He noted that visitors had complained that use of the park for such activities was inconsistent with its "historic and sacred values." Emery called for an immediate halt to such activities that contributed to the destruction of historical resources. [8] The golf course remained, but in 1941 the National Park Service refused to permit the Army to expand it onto Snodgrass Field. [9] The course was closed only after the deactivation of Fort Oglethorpe.

Coincidentally with efforts to discourage the Army's recreational use in the park, the National Park Service during the same period began instituting activities of its own. In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s recreational development of Point Park as well as the Chickamauga Battlefield took place. Many hiking trails were built. Bridle paths were created for horseback riders and picnic waysides built along the roads on Lookout Mountain. [10] In 1951, in lieu of the scattered picnic areas, the park constructed a centralized unit at Point Park. In 1953 another picnic area was started along Sanders Road on Lookout Mountain. This opened to the public in 1956. [11] Boy scout encampments were held in the early 1960s and in 1963 an official boy scout hiking path, the Chickamauga Military Trail, opened on Lookout Mountain. Other historical and nature trails were installed in 1965 and were used by more than 1,500 scouts during the year. In 1964 a new picnic area was developed near the Tennessee monument on Chickamauga Battlefield. [12] During the mid-to late 1960s more bridle paths were added at Chickamauga Battlefield. These and the hiking trails were viewed by Superintendent Cook "as a recreational means of gaining a better understanding of the battlefield." [13] By 1966 the park was hosting saddle clubs from surrounding communities and plans were afoot for establishing bicycle tour routes once the removal of Highway 27 reduced automobile traffic in the park. [14]

Recreational use of the park increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the late winter months kite-flying became popular. A request by a local model airplane club to hold their "fly-ins" at the park was denied, however. [15] In April, 1969, the first of many competitive foot races was held there, sponsored by the Chattanooga Y.M.C.A. [16] Yet another pursuit engaged in at the park was bird watching, wherein rangers regularly conducted bird walks from the Administration Building. [17] In a related move, an Environmental Study Area, established in 1968 on Lookout Mountain, continued for the use of students in the Chattanooga area participating in the National Environment Education Development program. ESA nature trails were later established on Chickamauga Battlefield. [18] development of boy scout trails on Lookout Mountain also occurred, along with a boy scout camping site to be located in the old "South Post" area. When finished, the campground served large numbers of scouts who visited the park during the summer months. [19]

In 1971 a ten-mile-long guided bicycle tour of the park proved so successful that plans were discussed for the establishment of a permanent bike trail. [20] Bicycle activities increased in ensuing years, and in 1973 an annual "Bike-A-Thon" to raise funds for charity was started. Roller skaters participated in this event, too. [21] Other recreational activities, some not connected with historical interpretation, were encouraged in 1972 with the designation of a ten-acre part of Wilder Field as a "playing field" for such sports as softball. [22] By then, too, the "Chickamauga Chase," sponsored by the Chattanooga Track Club, had become an established event held each April to test the endurance of runners on a ten-mile course that wound past the monuments in the park. [23] Bird walks and guided nature hikes continued to attract participants during the spring and summer months, and in April, 1972, the park observed its first annual "Natural History Day." [24] The park also inaugurated youth-oriented programs in which groups of children from Chattanooga visited daily to learn about flora, fauna, and history. These "Field Daze" activities were continued in subsequent years. [25] In a related exercise the park sponsored a children s poster contest in observance of the centennial of the first national park. [26]

In July, 1973, a wildlife exhibit sponsored by the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission opened at the Orchard Knob Reservation. The interest generated by this exhibit during "Field Daze" promoted a September nature hike held in conjunction with the park's annual Natural History Day. During the year park personnel prepared and printed an Environmental Study Guide for use at the Chickamauga Battlefield Environmental Study Area. [27] Nature activities in 1974 consisted of ranger-led tours and occasional screenings of outdoor films like Walt Disney's "Water Birds." [28] A major innovation in non-interpretive use of the park came in 1975 when Superintendent Donald Guiton arranged for the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra to perform three concerts at Wilder Tower that summer, and four the following summer, as part of the park's bicentennial program. "I know these concerts will attract many new visitors to our park," said Guiton. Attendees were encouraged to bring picnic suppers and enjoy the free performances. An estimated 8,000 people heard the final concert in 1975. [29] In 1976 the bicentennial symphony concerts were supplemented by more musical activity with the appearance of folk singers and the Chapel Choir from Little Rock, Arkansas, at Point Park. Nature hikes and bird and flower walks were conducted in the park, and now an annual hawk watch was held at Signal Point. [30]

These programs and activities continued during the latter 1970s. The summer symphony concerts became annual events attended by thousands of people who brought their blankets, beach towels, lawnchairs, and frisbees to Wilder Field to eat, drink, and play, while partaking of "Victory at Sea," "Porgy and Bess," and other selections. Two performances were given in 1978. Beginning in 1979 the symphony performances were dubbed "Pops in the Park," and the Chattanooga orchestra provided a portable acoustical shell as a backdrop for its musicians. In conjunction with one performance that year a bayonet exercise was presented by Civil War reenactors on the east side of Wilder Tower. Park trails remained widely used, and in 1978 the popular Blue Beaver Trail was declared to be a National Recreational Trail. Demonstrations of backpack camping were presented at Point Park. [31] In 1979 other events included the Chickamauga Chase," a "Walk-A-Jog-A-Thon" to raise funds for combatting arthritis, a "Bike-Hike/Trike-A-Thon" benefiting St. Jude's Hospital, another Bike-A-Thon, and even a Horse-A-Thon. [32] The following year the summer "pops" concerts again proved immensely popular. To celebrate Independence Day the symphony performed an arrangement of Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture culminated by a spectacular fireworks display. At other concerts the orchestra played pieces from musicals and films and performed with Civil War reenactment groups. [33] Other park events paled in comparison with the performances of the Chattanooga Symphony. Nonetheless, they consisted of bird walks at Reflection Riding Park, the annual "Chase " and Hawk Watch, and various bike-a-thons held to raise money for disabled persons. [34] A new addition was the First Tennessee's Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon held in November 1980. [35] More nature-oriented events, like the Bald Eagle Weekends and a John Muir commemorative birthday hike, were introduced in 1981. That summer's "pops" concert on July 4 featured Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander playing classical selections before 20,000 people from atop a specially-constructed platform. [36] The summer activities were capped by assorted charity-inspired races, including the 4.7 mile "Missionary Ridge Road Race " sponsored by Wendy's Hamburgers, and the 26-plus mile Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, an annual event. [37]

Clearly, activities at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park have taken a new direction from those envisioned by park founders and incorporated in the enabling legislation of 1890. Whether this legislation will be amended to accommodate the divergent interest remains unknown. Concerned preservation groups have repeatedly called attention to recent uses of the park for recreational rather than inspirational purposes. Yet National Park Service officials believe that such activities do not "represent a violation of the spirit that led to the founding of the park." [38] The administrative future of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park may well rest upon how well this policy is sustained.

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Last Updated: 01-Jun-2002