In May 2018 Friends of Moccasin Bend National Archaeology District and Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park consolidated, forming National Park Partners. The organization’s goals are to educate and promote both national parks through programs that engage the public in a variety of ways.
The 91,000-acre military park is the most visited attraction in the Chattanooga region, telling the story of an important Civil War campaign and representing a $70 million tourism impact. The 750-acre archeological district will explain 12,000 years of Native American presence. The newly formed organization reorders the parks into six places of significance—Moccasin Bend, Signal Point, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield, Chickamauga Battlefield and Orchard Knob.
The recreation these locations provide is a major asset. In total, there are 80 miles of trails and even more miles of waterways that provide recreation throughout the parks.
The stories of these areas, each layered with significant historic events, leave us with “a complicated legacy,” according to executive director, Tricia Mims. Mims came to the Chattanooga area from upstate New York during the mid-nineties to work as grants manager for the Hamilton County Development Office. Later, she became the Southeast Region project manager at Land Trust for Tennessee. Her work while there was instrumental in preserving the 10,000-acre Mayfield farm, the Blyth Ferry section of the Trail of Tears and a 3,000-acre tract which became part of the Cumberland Trail project. From there she went to the Lula Lake Land Trust as development director for three and half years.
Tricia taught for many years as an adjunct faculty member at the ℹ️ University of Tennessee Chattanooga in both Environmental Science and Political Science. She holds a M.S. in International Affairs from Georgia Tech, and a B.S. in Applied Economics from the College of Agriculture at Cornell University.
Engaging current and even future generations in protecting these cultural, historical and natural treasures through National Park Partners (NPP) is her primary goal and the thrust of most annual activities and events. During fall 2018, NPP celebrated 13 years of the popular Moccasin Bend Lecture Series, sponsored by local businessman, Greg Vital. The three-part series is always free and this year was held at the ℹ️ Bessie Smith Hall. The lectures featured Dr. Daniel Littlefield, Jr., University of Arkansas, Dr. Lauret Savoy, Mount Holyoke College and Dr. Paul Finkelstein, Gratz College.
The first themed events NPP undertook were Find Your Park Centennial events, encouraging regional patrons to explore and be stewards of the parks closest to them. Treasure Your Park is the current theme designed to encourage volunteerism. NPP has also created informational tours to educate various populations about the history surrounding the parks and how those special places shaped the city of Chattanooga. Taking care of the six special locations that form the parks is challenging.
The Federal government provides only $3 million for both parks and that must cover rangers, trail and monument maintenance, aside from just keeping the lights on. The NPP just wrapped up its annual September fundraising activity, the Party at Point Park. Grants help NPP develop local programming and most of its operating budget comes from individual donations.
The National Park Foundation began forming Friends groups years ago and they gather annually to discuss best practices and inspire leadership. The boards of the two Chattanooga organizations consolidated to form one 29-member board. NPP relies heavily on that board to create partnerships within the community. Board members are made up of regional leaders like archaeology enthusiast, Jay Mills and Civil War history buff, Anthony Hodges.
Longtime board member and current president, Dan Saieed, says “NPP is an important advocate for these six locations of historic interest. The consolidation of the two organizations allowed us to combine fundraising efforts and boards. We have more people involved and there is more energy.”
When it comes to fundraising, the needs are great. Some are obvious. At the top of Mims’ wish list is $19 million in deferred maintenance projects that will refurbish hundreds of plaques and monuments throughout the military history park.
“These statues honor the fallen, explain the battles and were dedicated and built by the states that donated them in the early part of the twentieth century,” says Mims. “It’s our responsibility to take care of them.”
A visitors’ center is in the works for the Moccasin Bend Archaeological District. Recently the NPP announced a new capital campaign for 2019 and the excitement is building. This is expected to provide a broader canvas for a better understanding of the area’s more recent history. “These sites shaped how the city grew,” says Mims. “They are special places that continue to contribute to our economy.”