LBL Heritage Plan Meeting Held in Dover at Public Library
By DAVID R. ROSS - Houston County Editor - February 6th, 2007 - www.thestewarthoustontimes.com
About 20 Stewart County citizens turned out for a recent Heritage Planning meeting for Land Between the Lakes held at the Stewart County Public Library.
Similar meetings on how the heritage of the Land Between the Lakes area can be enhanced and preserved have been held in the Kentucky cities of Cadiz, Benton and Eddyville.
“We need public input and we are going to our communities to ask for your ideas and suggestions,” said Jamie M. Bennett, Heritage Program Manager, for the U.S. Forest Service’s Land Between the Lakes. “These meetings help us to understand what kinds of things you are interested in in regards to preserving the heritage of LBL.”
Bennett said the meeting in Dover was not nearly as controversial or emotionally charged as the ones in the Kentucky cities.
“If we don’t get past the anger, we will never get to the heritage,” Bennett said.
Bennett said she is hoping to build a program that will include input from all citizens who have an interest in preserving and interpreting the rich heritage and history of Land Between the Lakes. Among those she want to involve and get input from are the former residents of the Land Between the Lakes area, along with their descendants.
Many of those in attendance at the meetings were former residents of LBL, and/or are descendants of the landowners.
“We want to preserve what history is there. We want to go forward and locate the foundations of the churches and mark them so future generations will know where these churches, homes and businesses were located and that people once lived and died here, just like all areas of our country,” said Vanetta Askew Stavely, of the Leatherwood Community of Stewart County. “We all know that most of what was there was destroyed. But we are ready to move forward and hopefully this will help ease the pain.”
Some of those in attendance were skeptical of Bennett’s true motives for having the heritage planning meetings.
“All of this sounds like continuing to move toward commercial development within LBL in direct competition with the private businesses outside of LBL,” said Harold Miller, who owns along with his wife own and operate Clara’s RV Park in the McKinnon area of nearby Houston County.
Others in attendance felt like the former landowners and their descendants should be skeptical of the motives of the federal government and would be unwilling to just hand over their personal stories in the fear that the federal government, or other entities, will market and make monetary profit off the pain and loss of those who were forced from the land.
In response to Miller’s comments, Bennett did not rule out the possibility that there would be some necessity for charges for programs and activities, or services and products, within the boundaries of LBL sometime in the future.
“All things require maintenance and there is a lot to maintain in LBL,” she said.
The heritage meetings, she said, were simply to continue the work of getting input from citizens on how to interpret the history of LBL.
“We want to see what ideas you have and see if anyone wants to work on a committee or committees, what kind of committees you think are appropriate and necessary for interpreting the heritage of LBL and then taking action from these meetings,” Bennett said.
The land between what is now Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley was once known as the Land Between the Rivers, which were (and are) the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River. Dams on those rivers created lakes.
In the 1960s it was decided that the federal government through the Tennessee Valley Authority would acquire the land between the rivers, through eminent domain, and all citizens who lived in that area were required to leave.
Since that forced removal from the land, emotions have generally run high in regards to how the land would be used.
The U.S. Forest Service took over control of the 170,000 acre plus national recreation area that is located in Stewart County in Tennessee and Trigg, Calloway and Lyon counties in Kentucky from TVA several years ago.
Some citizens at the meeting felt that whether it is in the form of TVA or the U.S. Forest Service, the Land Between the Lakes area was, and is, controlled by the federal government and promises made when the land was taken should be adhered to, such as the discussions that no commercial development would occur within LBL indirect competition with private businesses outside of LBL.
In the four decades that LBL was controlled by TVA, most of the structures were demolished.
“It is unfortunate that many old log houses and strucurtes were bulldozed and burned,” Bennett said.
Bennett said the work done by TVA’s staff in LBL through the years is rather a hodge podge of data and is not compiled into an understandable or useful format.
She said there are thousands of photographs, documents, oral histories
Also, the federal government also promised to hold the land as a public trust in perpetuity with none of it ever being sold.
In years past there have been discussions and rumors that some land within LBL would be sold or that some would be leased for private development.
“We are always fearful of that and will be ever vigilant,” said Stewart County resident Rhonda Ross, who attended the meeting. “The land was taken for the public good, not for private benefit. That is what the federal government promised and no one can come back now and say that really isn’t what the federal governemnt said or meant.”
For more information on this story and other stories read the Stewart Houston Times that is published every Tuesday.