Crockett Days at David Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone will once again celebrate frontier living and educate visitors about a way of life foreign to most.
Slated to begin next Friday, Aug. 16, the weekend event will include music, arts, craftsmen and plenty of educational opportunities.
“We are busily planning Crockett Days 2019, in celebration of Tennessee’s favorite pioneer son’s birthday,” Park Manager Jackie Fischer said. “We have a remarkable calendar of events this year.”
Lots of diverse events are planned.
Frontier life was hard, and even children of a young age were recruited into the militia. Michael Cato will teach youngsters what to wear, how to march, and how to fire a musket.
David Crockett Birthplace was also the site of an archaeological dig in 2018. ETSU graduate student Reagan Cornett will be at Crockett Days to share about how carbon dating shed light on an excavated Cherokee house site at the park. Visit Reagan at Crockett Days to view artifacts and learn about the fascinating history of Nolichucky Settlement.
Also, archaeologist SD Dean will be at the entrance of the homestead identifying artifacts during the weekend. “This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of Native Americans who lived along the Nolichucky River,” Fischer said.
Here’s a rundown of the weekend schedule:
A wide range of experts will make historical presentations throughout the weekend. They include:
Visitors should note: The road to the boat landing will be closed to guests beginning at noon on Friday, Aug. 16, for safety reasons.
A stand-alone Chick-Fil-A restaurant looks to come still to Greeneville, but it may be a while.
Construction of the popular fast food chicken restaurant may not be completed until 2021, according to the developer’s indications to town officials.
The delay, which may be up to 18 months, stems from concerns raised to the Chick-Fil-A corporation by Tusculum University officials regarding the proposed location on the Highway 11E Bypass. City Administrator Todd Smith said the developer informed him of that last week.
In May the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission gave preliminary approval to the restaurant for the site at 2645 E. Andrew Johnson Highway. That’s where the former Georgia’s Southern Table and Ryan’s Family Steakhouse restaurants were located at Crockett Crossing shopping center.
At that May meeting, representatives of the university expressed concern about the proposed location, which is a little over a mile from the Tusculum campus.
A Chick-Fil-A opened last summer on the university campus as part of its food service, operated by Chartwells. Tusculum’s location is open to the entire public and is the closest to a full-service Chick-Fil-A restaurant that is operated on a university campus, but does not feature the chain’s full menu.
In the May meeting, Tusculum Chief Financial Officer John Wilkerson asked that the restaurant site be reconsidered due to its proximity to campus and issues with heavy traffic around that intersection. Wilkerson’s comments came after the planning commission had voted to approve the preliminary plans.
Last week, Smith said he was contacted by John McCleskey of the New Urban Development Corporation, the developer for the proposed restaurant, to provide an update of the project for the town.
McCleskey indicated that the project is still moving forward with the East Andrew Johnson Highway location, the city administrator said. The sale of the property should be complete in the coming month, the developer reported.
But McCleskey said that the project may be delayed about 18 months with the restaurant not being opened until 2021, Smith said. Construction was originally estimated to begin by this fall.
The developer said that the Chick-Fil-A corporation had agreed to delay the restaurant project after being contacted by Tusculum University officials who expressed their concerns about the proposed location, Smith continued.
Efforts to reach McCleskey on Friday were not successful.
Tusculum University officials declined to comment for this article.
Outgoing Tusculum University President Dr. James Hurley has called Greeneville Town Hall and talked to other town officials about his concerns about the proposed stand-alone restaurant, although he did not personally talk to the university leader, Smith said.
Hurley is taking a position as president of Tarleton State University in Texas on Sept. 1.
When contacted late last week about the proposed restaurant, Chick-Fil-A corporate representatives said it was too early in the process to confirm a local location.
“We are always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service,” said Jessica Ferrell of Chick-Fil-A Inc. “While we plan to expand in the area in the future, it is too early in the process to confirm the Greeneville location.”
The preliminary site plan for the Chick-Fil-A calls for the construction of a 4,815-square-foot facility with a seating capacity of 114 that would be located in the same general location as the building on the site. The existing structure would be demolished and a new restaurant constructed.
The preliminary plan shows a double drive-thru and an additional canopy area for expedited ordering and payment. The parking lot was also be reconfigured.
Greene County Schools will have a School Resource Officer assigned to all of its buildings with students by the beginning of the January 2020 term.
There are currently 13 SROs assigned to county schools, with four more in training who should be in place by the end of 2019, Sheriff Wesley Holt said.
The schools to receive new SROs are Chuckey-Doak Middle, Baileyton Elementary, Doak Elementary and Debusk Elementary. The four new SRO officers complete the staffing of each county school.
There are currently SROs assigned to the four county high schools, in addition to Mosheim Middle School, Camp Creek Elementary School, McDonald Elementary School, Mosheim Elementary School, Nolachuckey Elementary School, Ottway Elementary School and the Glenwood Education Center that houses students formerly at the Howard McNeese Education Center.
“We make sure the principals who don’t have SROs know how to call us,” said sheriff’s Lt. Teddy Lawing, supervisor of the county SRO program and also the SRO at South Greene High School.
Ongoing gun-related violence incidents nationwide underscore the need for SROs in all county schools, Holt said.
“We live in a society anymore where it’s sad, (but) we have to protect the children,” he said.
Lawing. the SRO at South Greene, is also on the Greene County Commission.
“They saw the current situation in the country and the world,” Lawing said of commissioners. “It’s a learning process. We are all learning — the sheriff, chief (Deputy David Beverly) and (deputies) training. It’s a big project.”
All Greeneville City Schools have had SROs assigned for several years. Full SRO staffing of county schools with trained SRO officers is a goal long sought by Holt and his predecessor, Sheriff Pat Hankins.
“It’s very rewarding to have an officer there at each school who can take care of any problems that may surface,” Holt said.
County commissioners last year earmarked $1.8 million toward providing SROs at each county school. Funding from a new state pilot program helps pay for six of the SROs, Holt said.
SROs train in a curriculum used by officers across the country. It is known as the “triad concept,” developed by by the National Association of School Resource Officers.
NASRO is a school-based policing concept that divides the responsibilities of an SRO deputy into three areas: teacher, informal counselor and law enforcement officer.
“By training law enforcement to educate, counsel and protect school communities, the men and women of NASRO continuously lead by example and promote a positive image of law enforcement to school children and school communities,” according to the nasro.org website.
School-based policing is the fastest-growing area of law enforcement. SROs in Greene County Schools are not just trained to protect students and staff. They will also offer instruction beginning this semester in conjunction with the L.E.A.D. program.
L.E.A.D. stands for Law Enforcement Against Drugs. In Greene County Schools, the program is geared toward fifth-graders.
Law Enforcement Against Drugs is similar to the old Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, known as D.A.R.E.
L.E.A.D partners with educators, community leaders, and families. It provides “proven and effective programs to deter youth and adults from drug use, drug-related crimes, bullying and violence,” according to leadrugs.org.
Holt said L.E.A.D. program materials like workbooks for students were ordered this week.
“We’re focusing on the fifth grade right now,” Lawing said.
Holt said it is vital to communicate facts about drug abuse to young students before they are placed in the vulnerable situation deciding whether or not to use drugs.
“We’ve got to get something in their young minds to try and curtail it, to get it stopped,” Holt said.
The L.E.A.D. program has proven effective elsewhere in the country.
“Hopefully, it will work for us, too,” Holt said.
SROs in county schools like their work and spending time with students.
“It’s a rewarding new challenge for them, being school resource officers,” Holt said. “They enjoy the work.”
Some students have family-related issues or other problems they may not feel comfortable telling a teacher or other adult about. SROs are there to listen if needed, Lawing and Holt said.
“They trust the officers. They talk to the kids at lunch and recess,” Holt said. “(Being an SRO) is a way to show the child that officers can be trusted. They’re interacting with the children.”
While the primary purpose of SROs in each county school is safety and security, deputies have other interaction “not directly law enforcement-related,” Lawing said.
“We just sit down and talk with a kid who is having a bad day,” he said.
SRO training continues on an ongoing basis, according to Lawing.
Over the summer, seven SROs from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department completed training at the National School Resource Officer Conference in Pigeon Forge, to teach the L.E.A.D. program in Greene County Schools.
During the same week, nine new SROs to be assigned to Greene County Schools completed their Basic SRO Certification Training. Eight current SROs completed their annual 40 hour in-service training requirements at the training conference.
SROs also learned about an online certification process for SROs and educators to be able to have a “Parent Academy” where parents and educators teach the material to students.
“Together, this information is used so that parents and students are provided fresh information about the latest trends in social media issues and current illicit drug issues,” Lawing said. “With both parents and students having identical information, it provides knowledge where the parent and student can have a meaningful conversation about these important current topics.”
The first “Parent Academy” will be held at South Greene High School on a date yet to be determined with parents from South Greene High School, Debusk Elementary School, Nolachuckey Elementary School and Camp Creek Elementary School being invited to attend.
SROs from North Greene High School, West Greene High School and Chuckey-Doak High School will attend and take the material back to their schools to offer to the parents in their areas, Lawing said.
All 17 SROs recently completed an “Active Killer” training exercise conducted by Lt. Nick Milligan and Deputies John Pierce and Bryan Henderson..
During the 32-hour training program, SROs practiced tactics for clearing buildings and engaging active shooters. This training was conducted with live fire at a firing range and with simulation training using force-on-force scenarios.
“This training ensures that the SROs assigned to our schools have the training required to engage any threat to our schools,” Lawing said.
SROs are a welcome addition to the staff of each county school, said David McLain, Greene County director of schools.
“No doubt. When you put those extra eyes and ears (in a school), it’s wonderful. It’s great, especially with what’s happening today in the world we live in,” McLain said.
McLain said the roles of SROs encompass much more than providing security.
“They are building relationships. They are out there making relationships with kids,” he said.
Staff and parents also feel safer knowing that SROs are on duty at each county school.
“Any time you can get that extra adult in there I think it’s a win-win for the school, the kids and the community,” McLain said.
By the end of December, SROs should be assigned to each county school.
There are currently SROs assigned to the four county high schools, in addition to Mosheim Middle School, Camp Creek Elementary School, McDonald Elementary School, Mosheim Elementary School, Nolachuckey Elementary School and Ottway Elementary School.
The new SRO officers will be assigned to Chuckey-Doak Middle School, Baileyton Elementary School, Debusk Elementary School and Doak Elementary School.
The current list of assignments includes:
Baileyton, Debusk and Doak elementary schools, and Chuckey-Doak Middle School, are covered by SROs in the surrounding schools “on an as-needed basis until they are assigned their own SRO,” Lawing said.
Recently hired sheriff’s deputies in training who will become school resource officers upon completion of training include Walter Doolittle, Steven Smith and Korri Hendrickson.
Several deputies will serve as backups to SRO officers to those on vacation or on leave for other reasons, Holt said.
In the early 1960s, the top of Camp Creek Bald wasn’t so different from what it is today.
Cattle grazed in Jones Meadow, a clearing at the top of what some locals know as “Viking Mountain.” Hikers and campers comprised the bulk of those who journeyed to the top. A fire tower stood nearby.
But 55 years ago this month, a business transaction paired with a vision for an elaborate resort changed in a powerful way the trajectory of the mountain’s future.
With that anniversary in mind, The Greeneville Sun looks back at the history of Camp Creek Bald and the series of ultimately failed attempts to establish a lodge and ski resort at the top of the mountain that towers over southern Greene County.
On Aug. 11, 1964, Greeneville resident Walter Brannan and his family sold for $35,000 nearly 400 acres at the top of the mountain to a group of local businessmen who had organized as Bald Mountain Inc.
As newspaper records show, the company envisioned a resort, as well as skiing opportunities. Over the next four years, the company realized some of their goals and had constructed the first leg of a ski slope, along with a few chalets scattered across Jones Meadow.
But costs piled up for Bald Mountain Inc., and the group sold its investment to Florida businessman Frank E. Kaehn. An industrial and interior designer, Kaehn declared “big plans for the site.”
In a lengthy statement to the newspaper in October 1968, Kaehn pledged a year-round resort that would feature skiing, an upscale restaurant and horseback riding. Kaehn and his company, known as Mountain Venture, gave the property the name many area residents use today: Viking Mountain.
The company appeared headed for success. A lodge named The Valhalla Inn was growing in popularity for both its food and the views customers had while enjoying a meal. Visitors could rent small, rounded cabins. And on Feb. 7, 1972, Greene County opened its first — and only — ski season. On that day, about 200 people skied on the mountain.
Yet the achievements of Kaehn and his associates were built on massive debt. Warning signs of potential demise appeared publicly in 1971. Then, local businesses started filing liens against Mountain Venture for outstanding bills, a look at newspaper records show.
In an apparent effort to blunt those debts, ownership of Viking Mountain shifted to Viking Company, also headed by Kaehn.
Both corporations filed for bankruptcy and the lodge closed to the public in 1972, only a few weeks after the ski season opened.
The final collapse of any resort on Camp Creek Bald corresponded with the downfall of the late R. Eugene Holley. Once a Georgia state senator, Holley purchased the property in 1973 and planned to turn the area into a private resort for himself, his family and business associates.
An entrepreneur, Holley worked in the oil industry and invited to the mountain resort a range of high-level oil officials from the Middle East. Holley’s customized BAC 1-11, a British Aircraft, brought Holley to the Greeneville airport, where he would then transport his guests via helicopter to the mountaintop.
Financial problems plagued Holley too. He was bankrupt by the late-1970s, and he later faced a fraud conviction. After several years in prison, Holley died in 2000.
The lodge and resort changed hands multiple times over the next several years. By the mid-1980s, the site was abandoned and the structures — repeatedly vandalized — were in disrepair and sitting empty.
The U.S. Forest Service bought the land and, by 1995, had removed the lodge and associated cabins. Today, only a few visual reminders exist that a resort ever stood on Camp Creek Bald: a half-dozen tiles (once part of a large swimming pool) anchored at the edge of Jones Meadow and sections of paved road in a clearing that looks otherwise deserted.
A look at newspaper records shows a mix of reasons for the consistent business failures on the mountain. Certainly, the most glaring remain the crippling financial issues that gripped each company that owned the property.
Beyond that, neither county officials nor the companies briefly in charge committed to costly repairs to the rough road that led visitors from the Asheville Highway up the mountain to the resort. Even today, large sections of Viking Mountain Road remain rough. And at least in 1972, there simply wasn’t enough snow to support a ski resort.
In 2014, then-Sun Editor John M. Jones Jr. reflected on the history of the mountain. As a journalist in the 1960s and 1970s, Jones wrote many stories about the mountain’s development.
“I’m sure many Greene Countians and other East Tennesseans continue to have memories of the years when there was a lot of excitement about the mountain and what was going on there,” he said. “It always seemed to me that the greatest obstacle to success the resort concept faced was the road access problem, and I think that was the general feeling here. Had there been money to fix the road, among other things, who can say what would be on Viking Mountain now?”
He added: “It is, I would say, a vanished dream.”