The Cadiz Record

- Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -

Written by Hawkins Teague - Used by permission & Copyright of: Editor of the Cadiz Record

Photo at right - by: TCR photo/Hawkins Teague

David Nickell (left) discusses the need to have accessible family cemeteries at LBL. Nickell is a professor at Paducah Community College and a contributor to Between The Rivers Magazine, which is published two or three times a year, he said. Seated to his right is Harold Dixon.

Small crowd, large voices speak at LBL hearing

Hawkins Teague

The Cadiz Record - (

A small but engaged crowd of about 25 people came to the basement of the John L. Street Library Saturday morning to discuss their concerns about the Land Between the Lakes Heritage Plan.

Jamie Bennett is a United States Forest Service employee who is in charge of the program. She said that the program’s main goal is to preserve the heritage of the families who were forced to move out of their homes when the Tennessee Valley Authority condemned their land to create the national park in the early 1960s. Although some in the audience were skeptical of what the program would be, they listened attentively and offered many opinions.

Bennett said she was happy to have so many people who were curious and wanting to get involved because she had had trouble in other areas of the country getting people to care about similar programs.

“That is the number one thing I don’t have to do here,” she said. “There are plenty of people here who care about the heritage.”

Bennett said she was trying to get input from as many Between the Rivers residents as she could because their stories need to be recorded. She said that more people were dying all the time and that if their history weren’t thoroughly documented soon, it would be too late. She said that one reason the history of Between the Rivers hadn’t been documented the way it should be is that the former residents were afraid to get involved in any government-sponsored project. This is why the LBL Web site skips over their history, she said.

“I got an anonymous phone call the other day,” Bennett said. “He said I was opening old wounds and making people experience their pain all over again.”

Bennett said she understood those families’ distrust of the government who they feel stole their homes, but said that future generations need to know their stories. Murray resident Harold Dixon told Bennett that former Between the Rivers residents had no reason to believe that had anything but selfish motives and doubted whether the families’ histories would be handled with dignity and respect.

“It’s going to be a Disneyfication and a tourist trap,” Dixon said. “It’s going to make profane everything we hold sacred.”

Bennett denied that this was true, but Dixon said it has happened with other heritage plans across the country. He said he was also concerned that the park would charge admission fees, which he said would be breaking their promise that the land would be solely for public use and not-for-profit.

Bennett maintained that she understood his distrust but that she desperately needed cooperation because preserving the history is so important. She presented a Heritage Resource Management Plan that is the model for national parks. She said the plan was okay but very generic and that why she wanted to find out exactly what the former residents and descendents wanted the LBL Heritage Plan to be. She said that every federal heritage plan is developed with the public.

Bennett had several large sheets of paper taped to the wall. She said they were her drafts for desired conditions, standards and program components. She stressed that they were drafts and by no means final. She said she wanted everyone to feel free to add suggestions.

Bennett was delighted after Virgil Boyd arrived with his family. This was because he said he was interested in preserving history of African-American families that lived in the Between the Rivers area. Bennett said it was difficult to find black families who wanted to get involved with the program.

Dixon also wanted to know the legal classifications of public involvement. He said that some former Between the Rivers residents had requested consulting status in the past and that Area Supervisor Bill Lisowsky had denied him that status. He said that consulting status was needed because the government would be under no legal obligation to take any public desires into account when planning the program.

Many who attended the meeting were also concerned about access to family cemeteries. Wilson Dunn, who has family buried at Grace Cemetery, said that TVA had once promised him to construct a 1.5-mile trail to the cemetery, but had not kept the promise.

“Some cemeteries you’d have to jump out of a helicopter to get to,” Dunn said.

At the meeting, Dixon told Bennett that he liked her spirit but still had his doubts. He said he planned to attend the other discussion sections in surrounding counties in the coming weeks. There is one scheduled for the Stewart County library in Dover, Tenn. on Jan. 20; there is one at the Marshall County library in Benton on Jan. 27; there is one at the Lyon County library in Eddyville on Feb. 3. All are scheduled between 10 a.m. and noon.

Bennett said she wanted to keep in touch with anyone wanting to get involved and give suggestions. She encouraged them to call her at 924-2015 or email her at


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