Point Park is located at the northern end of Lookout Mountain just before the ridge plummets 1,500 feet to the Tennessee River below. Point Park was the site of the Battle for Lookout Mountain and it is also home to one of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Visitor Centers where we work. We work two days a week at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center and two days a week at Point Park. Our job at both Visitor Centers is similar: answer questions, orient visitors, explain the battles, and give directions.
But there are also some significant differences in the jobs at the two Visitors Centers. Most of the people who come to Chickamauga know that it was a battlefield and know something about the battle. They have come to learn more or to look up the location where a relative fought in the battle. We have the resources to help them learn those things. Most of the people who come to Point Park come to ride the incline but find there is little to do once they get to the top of Lookout Mountain. Rock City and Ruby Falls are too far away to walk to, so they wander down to Point Park and try to figure out what it is. They are surprised to learn it was a Civil War battlefield. We spend a lot of time telling people about the battles around Chattanooga at Point Park.
We also have to collect fees at Point Park. There is a $5 per person admission fee. Our first weekend at Point Park was Labor Day weekend. That Saturday we learned how to collect fees and then Sunday Tom and I spent most of our time in the Visitor Center alone, running the cash register for the Eastern National bookstore and collecting fees. That Sunday we also had over 600 visitors, so we were really busy all day. It was a baptism by fire – learning while we were doing and mostly doing it on our own. In contrast, this last Sunday we barely had 200 visitors. We also had to learn how to sell Senior passes and issue Access and Military passes. Because Chickamauga has free admission, we rarely do this when we are at the Chickamauga Visitor Center.
Point Park also has the James Walker’s “The Battle Above the Clouds,” a 13 x 30 foot mural that took James Walker almost 10 years to paint. Walker was at the Battle for Lookout Mountain so it is a somewhat historical depiction of the battle. Of course, General Hooker commissioned the painting, so he is front and center in the mural (on the white horse). Tom loves the painting and uses any excuse to get people into the viewing room.
At Chickamauga we rarely get outside, but Point Park is less busy so there is usually time to walk around the park and talk with visitors. Chickamauga is 5,000+ acres but Point Park is much smaller – less than 1/2 mile in circumference – so it doesn’t take us long to walk around the park unless we spend a lot of time talking to folks. We also love looking at the view from the overlooks.
We like both the places we work and all the people with whom we work. It is good to be busy and to feel like we are contributing to the welfare of the National Parks. Whether Tom and I are at Chickamauga or Point Park Visitor Centers, we are having fun and enjoying working together.