State Sen. Janice Bowling stopped in Sequatchie County today, to hear from her constituents.
June 25, 2019 – At a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Sequatchie County Courthouse, State Senator Janice Bowling promised to pursue action on repair of neglected scenic overlooks in the county.
About a dozen people attended the June 25 meeting, including County Executive Keith Cartwright and County Commissioner Chester Shell, as Bowling stopped on a listening tour of her district.
Several of those who came were concerned about the condition of two scenic overlooks – one on SR 111, Lewis Chapel Mountain, and the other on US 127, Signal Mountain. The sites are owned by the state, but have fallen into disrepair over the years.
“For years, the General Assembly would open a park, name it after themselves, cut a ribbon, and then walk off,” Bowling said. “There's always something that needs maintaining.”
Bowling said any repairs or improvements to the two sites “have got to be supervised. They've got to be done to code.”
The overlook on SR 111 has fallen pillars that are meant to hold a large chain around the perimeter of the parking area. The one on US 127 has a wooden staircase leading down to a stonewalled platform at the lip of a cliff, and the rails have fallen off the stairs in some places.
The scenic overlook on SR 111, Lewis Chapel Mountain, with pillars toppled over from neglect.
“What's the best way we can assist the state?” Comm. Shell asked.
Sen. Bowling pointed out that in another county citizens formed a 501c3 non-profit organization to funnel money to the state to improve public sites. Individuals can not do that, because it would look like buying favor.
“The one on 111 is a simple matter,” Norman Christian said. “All you need is some steel posts and steel cable. That one on 127 is a different story. If you step up on that rock ledge, you're talking about a 200-foot drop. The question you've got to ask is, 'Do you make it safe or do you make it pretty?'”
“Those sites are a staging snapshot of what we have to offer,” Cartwright said. “We could use the litter grant to police those areas and keep them picked up.”
Bowling then texted Joe Deering, director of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Region 2, which includes Sequatchie County.
As the meeting drew to a close, Deering texted back, saying: “We are looking at both of them. They are on our right-of-way. The biggest issue is ADA...”
ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires accommodation of disabled persons, allowing them access to everything other people enjoy.
All at the meeting agreed that the SR 111 overlook would not be a problem, since a concrete ramp would suffice. But the scenic overlook on Signal Mountain would be much more difficult to bring in compliance.
Sen. Bowling said that because the site on US 127 marks the location of Wheeler's Raid during the Civil War, it is a historic site, and so might be exempt from ADA compliance. She promised to look into it.
Other topics discussed at the meeting included:
- Bowling's bill to legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee.
- Legalization of hemp as an agricultural product.
- The elimination of the state's Professional Privilege Tax at Bowling's urging, which the state has “got the start of it, and we'll finish it next year,” she said.
- Her successful opposition to proposed privatization of state parks.
- Planned replacement of the inn at Fall Creek Falls State Park, which Bowling opposed. The cost of the project has climbed to $40 million, with multiple delays. Norman Christian pointed out that the inn was built atop a major seam of coal, and any attempt to demolish or disturb the foundations of that structure would likely send iron-laden red water into the streams.
Bowling also encouraged everyone to prepare for the next presidential election. “Next year is going to be a critical election cycle for our country,” she said.
Sequatchie County Commissioner Chester Shell asks about the two state-owned scenic overlooks.