U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann paid a visit to Bradley County in order to meet with local officials as well as make his way to Polk County to discuss the campground-closing dilemma in the Cherokee National Forest.
“It’s shock and awe,” Fleischmann said. “We have heard the stories and seen the pictures from the good people of Polk County who have said the forest rangers have gone in and put up boulders and torn down concrete picnic tables.”
He said one of his goals when he was elected to office was “to make government more accountable.”
“Washington, D.C., and the federal government in too many areas have become too powerful and to come in and do something like this, without local approval, is shocking to me,” Fleischmann said.
The congressman said his entire office is working on the matter and would “get all the facts.”
“There are a lot of folks in Polk County who are very upset, and I’m glad you here in Bradley County share this concern,” he said. “It’s a neighboring county and the economies are dependent on one another.”
Two local candidates for state representative have also taken on the cause.
Both J. Adam Lowe and Dan Howell, candidates for the 22nd District state representative seat, have taken action to move the matter forward.
Lowe brought a resolution passed by the Polk County Commission in support of reinstating the campgrounds before his colleagues on the Bradley County Commission last week for their support of the effort.
Howell met with Polk County Mayor Hoyt Firestone, members of Fleischmann’s staff and area residents on April 7 and then helped begin a petition drive which collected several hundred signatures.
He presented the papers to Fleischmann who said he would take them to a meeting of the chief forest ranger later in the afternoon.
“We are not only going to continue to monitor the situation, but be very proactive,” Fleischmann said. “We will hold them accountable. We will go in there and find out exactly what’s happening. I want answers. If we don’t get the answers that are satisfactory to our constituents, we will pursue the matter vigorously.”
He called the move to close the campgrounds “a shame.”
“We were not notified until the citizens started calling us and said, ‘My gosh, they’re doing this,’” he said.
He called it “a danger” which represents a disconnect between some of the federal agencies.
“I want answers and I’m going to demand answers,” Fleischmann said.