Landscaping Complements Plant’s Civil War Surroundings

A Tennessee treatment plant neighboring a historic area undertakes tree plantings to enhance visual appearance and build favorable public perceptions.
Landscaping Complements Plant’s Civil War Surroundings
Landscaping Complements Plant’s Civil War Surroundings

The City of Chattanooga’s Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant sits on 184 acres in the National Park Service’s Moccasin Bend Archeological District, a unit of the 956-acre Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park in Tennessee.

It wasn’t always that way. When built in 1961, the plant sat alone across the river from the city’s downtown on the peninsula formed by a major bend in the Tennessee River. There was no park. “The military park has just kind of grown up around us,” says Michael Patrick, superintendent of the plant (140 mgd design flow, 65 mgd average).

As a result, Patrick and his staff care deeply about the plant’s appearance and public perceptions of it. In years past, landscaping was not a high priority. Now, a major tree planting initiative and an odor-control project are underway.

Preserving history

This fall, more than 200 Leyland cypress trees are being planted to shield the plant from the roadway that passes in front of it. Saplings 6 to 8 feet tall will be spaced 6 feet apart and are expected to grow to about 20 feet tall in five years. In addition, several dozen American holly trees are being strategically planted to provide balance and pattern to the landscape. After the trees are established, the plant staff will handle maintenance, including trimming and mowing.

The federal government maintains its hold on the river bend to preserve and protect the vast archeological resources and Civil War sites there. Two of them — John Brown’s Homestead and Brown’s Ferry crossing — are near the treatment plant property. Each played an important role in the history of removing the

Cherokee tribe from the Tennessee Valley to Oklahoma before the Civil War era. A portion of a federal road system known as the Trail of Tears is next to the Moccasin Bend property.

Teaching moments

Matthew Snyder, sewer project coordinator, facilitates the plant’s public outreach program, aimed at educating the public about wastewater treatment and demonstrating commitment to preserving the site’s history. More than 3,000 school children, college students, community group members, summer camp attendees and general public visitors have toured the plant. The outreach program is key to maintaining the plant’s Platinum Level of the ISO 14000-based National Biosolids Partnership certification.   

“We are very aware of the importance of our location,” says Snyder. In addition to the Moccasin Bend plant, a golf course and a mental health hospital occupy the peninsula. Creation of the military park began in 1986. The National Park Service plans to develop a visitor’s center for the archeology district about a mile away from the treatment plant. It includes an improved gateway corridor to the center with multiuse trails.

“The park is really just beginning, and they don’t have a visitor’s center yet,” Patrick says. “But obviously the park will affect our future landscaping and operations.”


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