L-R… Brock Hill, Deputy Commissioner of Conservation, State Representative Dan Howell, Melissa Woody, VP Tourism Development, Melisa Mortimer, Southeast Tennessee Development District, Darlene Goins, Treasurer CCHHS, and Bob Martineau, TDEC Commissioner
State Representative Dan Howell joined Chamber of Commerce Vice President Melissa Woody and representatives from the Charleston-Calhoun-Hiwassee Historical Society to accept a $200,000 grant in Nashville. The money will be used for improvements to the National Historic Trail Experience being developed by the Historical Society and the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
The grant comes from the federally funded Recreational Trails Program and is administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Chamber Vice President for Tourism Development Melissa Woody pointed out that the grant comes just eight months after two representatives from the United States National Park Service came to Charleston for the express purpose of assessing the possibility of an interpretive greenway that would tie in with the Trail of Tears.
Representative Howell explained that present day Charleston was the site of Fort Cass, the military headquarters for the entire Trail of Tears Cherokee removal. “The Grant will fund the first section of the National Park Service concept plan for the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in Charleston,” Howell said. “The $200,000 grant will allow us to develop our section of the Trail and interpret it. It will also include trailhead parking and trail signs.”
The Trail will connect the Hiwassee River Heritage Center with the Charleston public park.
Senator Todd Gardenhire, who could not attend the grant presentation said, “the grant is very important at this stage of the trail development. It basically ensures that the story of Fort Cass and the Hiwassee regions role in this sad era of American history will not be lost.”
TDOT records show that more than 60,000 vehicles pass the Charleston/Calhoun exit each day on I-75. The vast majority have no idea they are passing a national historic site. Woody noted that if just a fraction of those passers-by stopped to see the Trail of Tears site, it would help the preservation of the story and boost the local economy.
Howell commended Melissa Woody for being the driving force behind the trail’s development in Charleston. “Without her vision, energy, and determination we would not be where we are today with this project.” He also thanked volunteer Darlene Goins of Charleston who serves as treasurer for the Historic Society. Melissa Mortimer who is the Historic Preservation Planner for the Southeast Tennessee Development District is also partnering with the Society and will serve as grant administrator.
“We have truly enjoyed working alongside the Historical Society and the Chamber as they create a great new experience for the community and tourists who come to visit.” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These investments in our local communities help improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans, and make the outdoors even more accessible for all to enjoy.”
Woody said work on the trail is expected to begin in the coming months and be complete within the two year grant cycle.