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Town changes its name to get park that may not come
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Residents of Lake City have voted to change the name of their town to Rocky Top. That may seem innocent enough as the song says, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me.” In actuality, no one has ever called Rocky Top home as prior to the name change, the only Rocky Top in Tennessee was a rocky outcropping found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
At a recent town hall meeting, the commission voted to ask the state legislature for authorization to make the name change. State Rep. John Ragan was at the meeting and said he thought it would pass easily in Nashville.
One reason for the name change might be of interest to Warren countians. An Anderson County commissioner and a group of silent partners promised the 1,700 inhabitants of the community big things if they would change their name. Those big things include, according to The Tennessean, “a Disney-style interactive 3-D animated theater; a Branson, Mo.,-style live music venue; an indoor-outdoor water park and a 500-seat paddleboat restaurant on a yet-to-be-constructed artificial lake, according to Anderson County Commissioner Tim Isbel. And that’s just phase 1. There are also plans down the road for an amusement park, and Isbel says he is not concerned the widely popular Dollywood theme park is only an hour away.”
According to The Tennessean, Isbel will not reveal the names of everyone involved in the project, but he said two of his business partners are Knoxville residents Buddy Warren and Brad Coriell.
Coriell is one name associated with a proposed Trail of Tears amusement park that was suppose to be built along Highway 8 in 2006.
According to an article written on TheChattanoogan.com website in January 2006, “A Trail of Tears Park is being planned east of McMinnville, according to a website about the development.” That website no longer exists.
The Chattanoogan.com said the park was being financed by Chinese investors and is planned to be “the size of Disney World.”
The designs included a Great Spirit Arena, a Sacred Ground Pavilion and a Flaming Arrow monorail system. The park was supposed to have “a National Trail of Tears Museum that will house Native American artifacts, Trail of Tears artifacts and Native American-inspired artwork. It is to be an interactive museum. The museum building itself will be the largest Native American monument in the United States.”
There was also to be a conference center and a destination point resort and spa constructed, operated and managed by a major hotelier.
According to an article published in the Southern Standard in February 2006, Junior Wilson of J&G Development, who had been working with project organizers on the Trail of Tears project said, “One of the things negative about the article that came out in The Chattanoogan is they defined a spot. We have not defined one. We have three locations we’re looking at and it covers several counties. It could be more in White County, it could be more in Bledsoe, it could be more in Van Buren. Those three counties are the three potential locations, but no location has been defined yet. And the reason we’re holding off on announcing the location is to see which one is going to fit best with the designs.”
Wilson went on to say the Trail of Tears park project is real. “We have met with the governor on it. We’ve met with Sen. Cooper and Rep. Charles Curtiss knows about it. They’re aware of everything that’s going on. It’s a big project. Once we begin operations, which will go over a four- to five-year span to get to its full potential, we’ll employ 2,500 people ourselves. Warren County employees will be close enough to work up there.”
Unfortunately, that major attraction never happened.
Barry Thacker, president of the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, is afraid officials in Lake City/ Rocky Top are falling for the same false dreams from Coriell. Thacker hopes to halt the town’s name change and halt the proposed changes promised to Lake City residents.
 “I think it’s a scam, but Lake City council has already voted to change the name of the town to Rocky Top to accommodate the planned amusement park that will be funded by private investors who don’t want to reveal themselves,” said Thacker.