Residents upset after park's equipment vanishes - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Residents upset after park's equipment vanishes

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POLK COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

Visitors of a historic park in Polk County are wanting answers after discovering all the park's equipment had vanished. On Tuesday night hikers found some of the missing equipment dumped and in pieces near the Ocoee River.

The missing equipment, including picnic tables, fire pits and even trash cans, has angered some regular park visitors who are wanting to know where it all went and why it's gone. Residents were shocked to learn that it wasn't vandalized, but the Forest Service had cleaned it out.

"They said they were relocated to a better facility, where it was more feasible," said Daren Waters, Polk Co. Commissioner.

"And this doesn't look too much like relocation," he said, motioning towards the busted picnic tables found a couple miles away from the Tumbling Creek campsite park.

Daren said he grew up going to the campsite, and has received many complaints from residents since the equipment was recently removed.

"We would've just liked to have had an input before they did this," he said.

The Forest Service is reportedly looking to cut costs, and clearing out Tumbling Creek came as a surprise to residents. The Forest Service owns 51 percent of Polk County.

"The 49 percent of the taxpayers, when [the Forest Service] comes and takes away from what [taxpayers] enjoy, it makes people pretty upset."

"It seems like there's a whole lot of take and very little give," said Eric Waters, Mayor of Copperhill.

He said the park is a community treasure with more than seven decades of memories.

"There's not a campsite here that I've not slept on," Eric said.

Fresh dirt tracks now mark where the tables and fire pits once sat -- little things enjoyed for generations.

"From my grandparents, to my parents, to me, to my children -- we've all come down here, and do come down here to use the area," said Eric.

Residents were told they can still use the park, but now must supply their own seating and trash cans. They're seemingly small changes, the Waters said, but a big hit for those who live here.

"We don't have a whole lot to offer," said Eric. "But we would like to be able to hang on to our heritage, our memories, and continue to enjoy this."

Visitors of a historic park in Polk County are wanting answers after discovering all the park's equipment had vanished. On Tuesday night hikers found some of the missing equipment dumped and in pieces near the Ocoee River.

The missing equipment, including picnic tables, fire pits and even trash cans, has angered some regular park visitors who are wanting to know where it all went and why it's gone. Residents were shocked to learn that it wasn't vandalized, but the Forest Service had cleaned it out.

"They said they were relocated to a better facility, where it was more feasible," said Daren Waters, Polk Co. Commissioner.

"And this doesn't look too much like relocation," he said, motioning towards the busted picnic tables found a couple miles away from the Tumbling Creek campsite park.

Daren said he grew up going to the campsite, and has received many complaints from residents since the equipment was recently removed.

"We would've just liked to have had an input before they did this," he said.

The Forest Service is reportedly looking to cut costs, and clearing out Tumbling Creek came as a surprise to residents. The Forest Service owns 51 percent of Polk County.

"The 49 percent of the taxpayers, when [the Forest Service] comes and takes away from what [taxpayers] enjoy, it makes people pretty upset."

"It seems like there's a whole lot of take and very little give," said Eric Waters, Mayor of Copperhill.

He said the park is a community treasure with more than seven decades of memories.

"There's not a campsite here that I've not slept on," Eric said.

Fresh dirt tracks now mark where the tables and fire pits once sat -- little things enjoyed for generations.

"From my grandparents, to my parents, to me, to my children -- we've all come down here, and do come down here to use the area," said Eric.

Residents were told they can still use the park, but now must supply their own seating and trash cans. They're seemingly small changes, the Waters said, but a big hit for those who live here.

"We don't have a whole lot to offer," said Eric. "But we would like to be able to hang on to our heritage, our memories, and continue to enjoy this."

Terry McDonald, Cherokee National Forest spokesperson, said the Forest Service has been looking at ways to cut costs, and was forced to make "tough choices" to reduce spending.

McDonald acknowledged residents were not notified of the changes made to Tumbling Creek, but said officials made the decision to remove the equipment due to health and safety standard concerns.

"The Forest Service no longer uses cement tables, and we had reports of some with rebar sticking out of them," said McDonald.

He said the fire pits and trash cans will be reused in other areas of the 656,000 acre National Forest.

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