From Umbrella Rock to soft rock, supporters of the local national parks enjoyed a night of relaxing entertainment, food and – oh yes – a few scenic views from Point Park on Thursday.
The event was held in part to raise money for the newly named National Park Partners group that combines the two old “Friends” groups that supported both Moccasin Bend as well as Chickamauga and Chattanooga national parks.
The 10th annual gathering was also a time simply to celebrate the beauty of the local national parks and let supporters mingle and enjoy fellowship.
“It’s really hard to beat this location,” said NPP executive director Tricia Mims during a break in the evening.
“And we love to have everybody together.”
Attendees enjoyed a catered barbecue buffet dinner with several side dishes and banana pudding, music by the local Power Players, and a silent auction of items ranging from history books to a framed collection of clippings about Moccasin Bend.
And in a surprise announcement, Becky F. Browder was presented the Drew Haskins Jr. Award of Merit for her longtime volunteer and support work with the group.
A number of other longtime civic volunteers and leaders were in attendance, from former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park superintendent Brad Bennett.
But the most-welcomed guest was likely the cool breeze that created a pleasant evening.
And the old friend people wanted to see the most was probably Umbrella Rock, even though a descent – and return climb -- of several dozen yards was required to see it.
For the only time all year, park officials opened the metal gate to the closed rock, which is considered unsafe for climbers due to its height and bluff location. Several stood in line to get their pictures taken next to it with their own phones or cameras by NPP volunteers.
Park ranger Christopher Young, who was on hand to talk to event attendees, believes the rock is the iconic marker on the mountain.
“I tell people they’re not the first visitors, they’re one of millions who have been here even before the Civil War,” he said with a laugh.
The whole park was also highlighted during formal remarks in front of the New York Peace Monument.
Supt. Bennett told those gathered at tables about such overall park improvements as new park identification signs and a marquee entrance sign at Chickamauga Battlefield similar to those at other national parks.
He also said a number of other projects are in the completed or development stage.
Ms. Mims pointed out that the 9,100 acres of local national park land has about $19 million in deferred maintenance, and that the Lyndhurst Foundation has offered matching grant money for any funds raised in the upcoming future.
“The National Park Service need us to carefully keep our contract with future generations,” she said.
“This land truly is your land.”
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To hear National Park Service Ranger Christopher Young discuss the history of Umbrella Rock and why it is now closed, Click here.