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TDOT crew works to repair scenic overlook on Lewis Chapel

Today, workmen were replacing damaged pillars along the edge of the scenic overlook on SR 111.

July 9, 2019 – Motorists going up Lewis Chapel Mountain on SR 111 this week saw workers at the scenic overlook. A crew from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) had out the heavy equipment, drilling holes in which to stand new posts to replace the ones that have toppled over.

We're going to put the posts up and put the chain back like it was,” David Chandler said.

As the TDOT supervisor for Sequatchie County, Chandler was overseeing the repairs at the overlook.

TDOT has been planning to effect repairs at the site for two years, Chandler said, but what they want to do is much more expensive than just restoring the posts and chain as they were originally.

They put out a bid for $70,000 to update the overlook,” he explained.

Plans are to build a concrete wall about waist-high, to replace the post-and-chain arrangement, because the gravel that secures the posts too easily erodes and rolls off down the slope. The current work is a temporary measure until contractors can put in something more permanent.

The repairs come just weeks after two local citizens spoke to the Sequatchie County Commission about repairing the two scenic overlooks in the county – this one and another on US 127 as it goes up Signal Mountain.

The Lewis Chapel overlook is a simple matter, but the one on Signal Mountain is a lot more complicated.

That one's been closed for years,” Chandler said, “but people keep going in there. It just costs way too much to repair.”

The Lewis Chapel overlook already has a wheelchair ramp, making it ADA-compliant, although the ramp is grown up in grass now.

At the Signal Mountain overlook on US 127, the stairs are still intact, but the rails need to be replaced.

The Americans With Disabilities Act poses a problem for the other overlook, because the viewing deck is located down about 20 feet of stairs that, at the least, need the rails replaced. The deck itself is firmly lodged on a huge outcropping of natural rock cliff, so it's not going anywhere. But the stairs have fallen into disrepair, and would require an engineer to make them somehow ADA-compliant.

At a recent town hall meeting attended by several local people and officials who were concerned about this issue, State Senator Janice Bowling suggested that the Signal Mountain overlook might be considered exempt from ADA compliance because it is an historic site, marking the location of Wheeler's Raid in 1863.

The view from the top of the stairs on Signal Mountain is beautiful, but from the viewing platform it is blocked by trees.