Ron Littlefield: How Long Must We Wait?

Monday, September 10, 2018

While attending last week’s event for National Parks Partners, I spent a few minutes gazing down at Moccasin Bend - that iconic view from Point Park.  I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on the history of Chattanooga and the long, hard struggle to incorporate this significant historic natural resource - this unique land mass - into the fabric of the community’s renaissance. It’s time.

 

The Bend came very close to being added to the National Park in the 1950’s but last minute politics thwarted that move.

From time to time over the years, other proposed uses for the Bend would arise.  A move in the early 1980s to use the site for industrial development led to creation of the Moccasin Bend Task Force by city and county leaders. Weeks ago I posted records on social media from a 1984 meeting of that group describing efforts way back then regarding proposals to move the police firing range so that visionary plans for development of the bend as a park could proceed.

 

During my last term as mayor, I called together leadership of local law enforcement and told them that the issue of moving the firing range had been hanging around for far, far too long and while it is well known that those who use the present location enjoy the natural setting it was now time to move.  I told them that I was determined to resolve this issue before leaving office.  After making suggestions about possible alternatives, I pledged my support for whatever plans they might determine were best for their purposes.  “Just tell us what you need,” I said.  So, another city-county task force was quickly formed specifically for the firing range issue, Staff was was assigned to take notes and keep things moving, and the group proceeded to meet frequently and openly to address the matter.

 

To my surprise, the task force soon came back with a proposal rejecting my suggestions and informing me that they had selected a site on 12th Street behind the Onion Bottom Police Station in the old Farmer’s Market site.  I responded that while I would have preferred another city/county property on 23rd Street and really had other plans for the Farmer’s Market property to add to services for the homeless, if that location was their choice then I would help move things forward with all due diligence. Recognizing that outdoor ranges are now a major “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) land use, members of the law enforcement task force had toured indoor ranges in Atlanta and Orlando.  They reasoned that the 12th Street location already had available parking, security and other facilities, plus an indoor range would enable them to have a facility available for training 24/7 regardless of weather.

 

Our then Congressman Zach Wamp secured $1.1 million in federal funds to aid the eventual  construction. Design teams were selected, plans were drawn and potential suppliers for specialized equipment such and “bullet traps” and air handling equipment were identified.  A dilapidated warehouse was cleared from the selected site.  All was in readiness for putting the project out for bid.

 

My term in office ended in April of 2013, but I was satisfied that the process was well underway to complete the long-sought goal of moving the firing range.  We were so certain of success that a memorandum of agreement was signed to transfer of the site to the National Park by a date certain. I left office happy that this issue was finally resolved.

 

But the change in administration brought new personalities with new points of view into the process.  A new police chief was installed and progress was halted while plans were reconsidered.  Everyone said that it was only temporary.

 

Without going into all the sad details, it was ultimately announced that the plans so recently prepared by the local law enforcement task force were now deemed inadequate for anticipated needs and that second task force would reconsider the matter and propose a new plan. 

 

That new task force has met sporadically and secretly for five and a half years.  Whenever asked how things are going, we are told that something will be announced very soon. Meanwhile, the agreement to transfer the property was ignored, the federal grant has been lost, construction costs for a new range have escalated and development around Moccasin Bend is proceeding rapidly.  Zoning cases are being held up and complaints from new residents of the apartments and townhomes across the river are increasing.

 

There have been significant changes over the years in both the City Council and County Commission. A new county government has just taken office.

 

Even though I was once satisfied that the longstanding problem of moving the firing range had been solved, I stand ready to help solve it once again. I can think of several alternate sites that should work very well.  All it takes is a willingness to move forward.  My offer to representatives of local government - and particularly local law enforcement - is the same as before:

 

Just tell us what you need.

 

How long must we wait?  It’s time.

 

Ron Littlefield


Alcohol Is Not Needed At McKenzie Arena - And Response

Chivalry Is Not Dead

Testing Transparency Is Needed For Tennessee


To start off with I am not opposed to the consumption of adult beverages in moderation and having a designated driver available. I attended the University of Chattanooga before and after UT arrived. ... (click for more)

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 26, I was driving up Lookout Mountain taking my mother home. My 2-year-old granddaughter was also along for the ride. Halfway up Ochs Highway in the middle of ... (click for more)

Thomas Jefferson believed: “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” We could not agree more. In Tennessee, our state agencies have a core function to serve the citizen’s ... (click for more)


Opinion

Alcohol Is Not Needed At McKenzie Arena - And Response

To start off with I am not opposed to the consumption of adult beverages in moderation and having a designated driver available. I attended the University of Chattanooga before and after UT arrived. Fraternities used to bring mini-kegs to Chamberlain Field during football games and plenty of people brown bagged. There was probably to much drinking going on. I know I was immoderate ... (click for more)

Chivalry Is Not Dead

On the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 26, I was driving up Lookout Mountain taking my mother home. My 2-year-old granddaughter was also along for the ride. Halfway up Ochs Highway in the middle of a blind curve, at rush hour, my car simply died. Smoke poured out from under the hood, and we were completely stranded. There was a long line of cars stuck behind us unable to go around because ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Coppinger Says Sewage Treatment Issue "Has Gotten Totally Out Of Control. It's Totally Political"

County Mayor Jim Coppinger charged Wednesday that the sewage treatment issue facing the county "has gotten totally out of control. It has become totally political." He said, "The people who deal with this every day are telling us one thing and we are responding differently." The County Commission voted earlier 5-4 not to approve a site on Mahan Gap Road that had been recommended ... (click for more)

Highland Park Woman Carjacked, Strangled; 2 Arrests Made

A Highland Park woman out looking for her dog was carjacked and strangled, police said. Police later spotted the vehicle and arrested Kermyca Hester, 18, of 2801 Taylor St., and a juvenile male. In the incident on Monday evening, the woman said she was in her car on Union Avenue trying to spot the dog when two people came along and said they had seen the dog and would help ... (click for more)

Sports

Curtis Shaw Recalls March Madness Memories As College Basketball Referee

This is the last of four March Madness stories involving those with Chattanooga ties. Since his days as a basketball star at McCallie School in the late ‘70s, Curtis Shaw always imagined his career path would lead him into coaching. He just never envisioned the 30-year detour that would carry him to the forefront of college basketball’s center stage along the way. Over the ... (click for more)

Homer-Happy Baylor Wins 10-6 Slugfest With McCallie

If you were looking for a pitcher’s dual, McCallie’s baseball field wasn’t the place to be Wednesday night. If you wanted to see a lot of offense and a bunch of home runs, then maybe you should have come. Whatever the case, Baylor remained unbeaten after scoring 10 runs for the second straight day. Improving to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in region play, four different Red Raiders ... (click for more)