The Bradley County Commission is preparing to join neighboring counties to push for the reopening of parks within the Cherokee National Forest.
Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe told commissioners Monday he became aware of the closings when friends of his who live in the 4th District which he represents attempted to take a Spring Break vacation in one of the parks.
“We normally go to Cherokee to camp and do the things families normally do. It’s a beautiful place to have access so close to our county,” Lowe said. “We don’t have any national or state forests in our county, but we do have one adjacent to us, and a lot of folks use it.”
He said his friends went to the site and “ran into a bunch of rocks in federal parks where they blocked them off.”
Lowe said he called commissioners in Polk County who had not heard of the closings, as well as the office of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.
“What appears to have taken place is the budget was cut with a preference to shutting down low-traffic areas,” he said. “Anybody with common sense knows that parks in Polk County are not the Great Smoky Mountains. They are going to have lower foot traffic than those larger parks.”
He said the Polk County Commission is drafting a resolution of support for Fleischmann to use when he goes into budget discussions to get the parks reopened.
“It wasn’t just rocked off,” Lowe added. “They didn’t have enough money to continue operations of the park. But, they did have enough money to hire the equipment to come in and destroy the items in the park. They busted up the concrete tables, took the firepits up ... they didn’t try to retain the assets, just spent a lot of money destroying things.”
He said Polk County would be sharing its resolution with Bradley and surrounding county commissions.
Lowe said if the Polk resolution is ready by next week, the Bradley County Commission can take it up then “to ask federal officials to look at that budget and see if it can’t be a little more equitable with park closures.”
He also suggested if the federal government is not interested in running the park it should “remove the barricades and let the people take care of it.”
First District Commissioner Ed Elkins asked the Commission to add to next week’s agenda an item that could put the issue of an audit committee in the hands of the next seated Commission in September.
“The committee has been somewhat inactive,” Elkins said. “My suggestion is to defer this to the newly seated Commission on Sept. 1 and let them see if they want to continue it and work with the county attorney and mayor’s office.”
County Mayor D. Gary Davis said he knew the state statutes at one time “strongly suggested” the establishment of such a group.
Announcements were made concerning future committee meetings.
The Work House Study Committee will meet Thursday at 2:30 p.m., in the county mayor’s conference room.
The Road Committee will meet April 22 at 9:30 a.m., at the road department.
The Finance Committee will meet in the county mayor’s conference room at noon on April 23.