A citizens group said they are fearful that a large chicken processing plant will go on 300 acres owned by Walker County at scenic McLemore's Cove.
A group of protestors stood outside Pilgrim’s Pride in downtown Chattanooga’s Southside on Thursday to say they plan to challenge any plan to move the chicken plant to the cove.
The protestors said they were "responding to plans to carve out 300 acres of the 50,000-acre countryside for a multi-building, chicken slaughtering facility."
Members of the “Don’t Slaughter Our Cove” group said McLemore's Cove, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994.
Ruth Almeter, a nearby resident of McLemore Cove, said, “We’re not against development, growth or jobs for our neighbors in Walker County.
We’re against a chicken plant or any industry in the middle of protected, pristine land that’s of national, cultural and historic value. We hope Commissioner Shannon Whitfield and any of the county leadership would use better judgment before ruining this national treasure and putting our families in danger. We will do whatever it takes to try to make sure this plant does not move forward in McLemore's Cove.”
The group proposes Walker County’s industrial park as a suitable alternative, acknowledging the need for growth and jobs in the area.
To try to find out what has been discussed between the county and Pilgrim’s Pride so far, the McLemore's Cove Preservation Society filed a lawsuit seeking non-disclosure agreement documents between the entities.
Blackwell Smith, businessman and longtime resident of the area, said, “McLemore's Cove is thousands of acres of natural woods, rolling fields and historic farm land, and it is not suitable for a massive chicken plant. Putting a plant in McLemore's Cove will harm property values, ruin a historic site, destroy country roads with chicken trucks creating safety issues and pollute the air and drinking water with dangerous waste and horrible smells. More than that, it will bring in low-paying jobs and dirty industry, which will only hurt the growth of our local economy and ability to attract clean industry.”
The group citred "reports on the critical practices of Pilgrim’s Pride, which include environmental issues, employee abuse, workplace safety violations, animal cruelty and labor rights."
They said they believe a chicken plant in McLemore's Cove "would have lasting negative effects on the watershed, creating major health issues for residents and potential workers. "
The group noted that several thousand supporters across the country have contacted them through Facebook, an online petition, email and phone calls.
McLemore's Cove is the valley between Lookout Mountain and Pigeon Mountain. Several creeks run through the area: West Chickamauga, Hogjowl, Mud, Voiles and Mill. The cove is about three miles south of Chickamauga, Ga.
McLemore's Cove is named after a prominent Cherokee/Scottish family who settled in the area during the 1820s. The cove also played an active role during the Civil War in the events leading up to the Battle at Chickamauga. The area developed a few small communities with further growth occurring when the Chattanooga Southern Railroad was established in 1887. Industry also developed at Estelle during the early 20th-century with the mining of iron ore. A group of residents formed the McLemore's Cove Preservation Society in 1989 to protect the cove from a power plant and to preserve its history.