Thursday, June 18, 2009

Metro Planning's 2nd May Town Center bridge condition at Cleece's Ferry may contradict their condition of sensitivity to archaeological sites

An Enclave reader pointed out that the 2nd proposed bridge--set as a condition for May Town Center approval--appears to be something along the lines of desecration:
I just read your post from June 15 regarding the 3 bridge options for Bells Bend. Had not seen that all laid out before. Aunt B has been talking a bit about the archaeological aspect of things, but I'm not sure if folks realize how much of an archaeological clusterfuck (pardon my language...) building a bridge at the Cleece's Ferry spot would be. The river bank for a quarter mile on either side of the boat ramp is something like 30 feet deep of solid archaeological site & has been spitting out human burials since at least the late 1800s. Hell - according to an article from the State Archaeology office over at Nashville Past & Present blog ( it just kicked out 6 more bodies this month. I wonder why the Native American community isn't in full-throttle protest about the May Town thing yet?


  1. For S-Town Mike and readers, my name is David Koellein, and I am a member of the May Town Center development and design team. I have been reading some of your blog posts with interest. While the debate about May Town Center continues over the next several weeks, I hope to be a resource offering useful and factual insights regarding the proposal.

    Your vehement opposition, S-Town, while a welcome voice in the debate, will hopefully be moderated by consideration of accurate information and Nashville's obvious need to plan strategically for future development that respects the landscape, contributes to land preservation efforts, and supports our economic sustainability. I hope that Enclave will be a place for genuine and beneficial discussions rather than mere polemic.

    For the moment, please note that May Town Center has planned for historical and archaeological preservation from the outset and that Planning's report this week merely requests a specific course of conversation to accomplish it as development occurs. A site-wide survey was conducted by Zada Law (corroborated by discussions held by Wilbur Smith and associates), the results of which have been submitted to the city. Sensitive sites are known and catalogued. It is nonsensical and baseless that the developer would seek to disturb these sites.

    Discussion about points of access to May Town Center, their locations, and the modes of transportation they will accommodate are under discussion this week. For the record, these discussions are little to do with infrastructural capacity, as the zoning proposal has already introduced development caps to ensure adequate capacity for anticipated traffic.

    With regard to your discussion about sprawl, it is impossible that any honest assessment of a development that concentrates 8 million square feet of office, 8,000 residences, plus retail and public services on a mere 550 acres would characterize it as sprawl. That is a comically unfair description and belies the nature of what is happening at an alarming pace at the fringes of our region.

    I look forward to discussion during the coming weeks.


  2. Holy cow. David, are you for real, really saying that Zada Law's survey is the mysterious full site survey?

    If this is the case, I have some questions.

    1. You're aware that Zada Law's survey was done in 2005, before all the land for the current project was acquired, right?

    2. If Law's survey is the survey you're working with, why does she show the African American cemetery in a different place than your materials do?

    3. She says in her survey "No archaeological sites have been recorded in the project area; however, no systematic archaeological studies have been conducted north of Old Hickory Boulevard and "Background research alone cannot suffice as an assessment of whether archaeological remains are present in a given area." and says that she has not done a comprehensive on-site survey (emphasis mine).

    Are you aware of this?

    4. You know you can't honestly say that "Sensitive sites are known and cataloged" when every archaeologist--including Law herself in that report--has said repeatedly that there never has been an archaeological inventory of that land and that, were one to be done, they all feel confident that many sites would be found there.

    Does this not bother you in the slightest?

  3. Dear David:

    It's not the tightness of the development wad that defines this as sprawl, it's the fact that is's out in a pasture.

    Should have been covered in Developer 101...guess they forgot that part.

  4. David, First I must state that I am opposed to the May Town project, however if it is a necessary evil that must come to my community ( I live on the southern bank of Bells Bend) I would like to offer an alternative (and green) transportation plan. Rather than building bridges and encouraging increased traffic through the bend's various neighborhoods, have you considered reviving the ferry system and having readily available public transportation on hand to move commuters to and from the ferry sites?

    I have not heard any discussions on transportation and traffic that
    did not include bridges.


    Betsy Thorpe

  5. Kudos to Aunt B for calling BS on the "a site-wide survey was conducted" line that we keep hearing from the May Town folks.

    Any statement that a comprehensive archaeological assessment has been conducted is an outright (& outrageous) lie. The report by Law was only a literature review of previously identified sites, and included no field investigations - a fact made very clear in the first paragraphs of the report!

    The State Archaeologist says no survey has been done, the TN Historical Commission says no survey has been done, and yet the developers continue to tell us "everything is fine - a survey HAS been done, and we know EXACTLY what's there!" Absurd.

  6. The stories on this site get more aoutrageous.
    Betsy, where exactly is the South Bank of Bells' Bend? Thanks.

    "6 more bodies" how can anyone start or repeat this kind of stuff and want to be taken serious.

    I still have questions about the 2 bones 'found' so conveniently at this time. Somone may know but I have not heard, who found them, EXACTLY WHERE and how were they found?

    Bones floating in the river could have come from ANYWHERE,USA up the river.

  7. At this point, I feel really bad for Zada Law, who wrote a really interesting report and who was as explicit as possible about it NOT being the necessary site review, but just a guide to the kinds of things a developer could expect to come up once the people were in the field, so to speak.

    It must stink to be so careful and still have your work misrepresented.

    That's why I'm stunned that they're claiming her survey is THE survey. What a slap in the face to a person who obviously did good work for them.

  8. I guess that should read the southern bank of the Cumberland River at Bells Bend.........thanks I will make the change.

    I have lived on the river for almost ten years.....I guess I should state my geographical reference more clearly.

  9. I guess that should read the southern bank of the Cumberland River at Bells Bend.........thanks.

    I have lived on the river for almost ten years.....I guess I should state my geographical point of reference more clearly.

  10. I still have questions about the 2 bones 'found' so conveniently at this time. Somone may know but I have not heard, who found them, EXACTLY WHERE and how were they found?

    Bones floating in the river could have come from ANYWHERE,USA up the river.

    Apparently you didn't read the link provided in the post, or see the coverage on Channel 4 a couple weeks ago...? Because it kind of answers all of this. Or is it that you just don't believe the findings of the state archaeologist, metro PD, & the medical examiner's office?

  11. Thank you Maggie.

    The post I added to Nashville Past And Present was submitted by State Archaeologist, Aaron Deter-Wolf, who clearly stated in the report that the bone was not found floating in the river.

    My interest here lies in the historic significance of the area and not in the politcal and I am finding that history and politics are not happy companions.

    Betsy Thorpe

  12. Betsy, even multiple ferry systems would not provide sufficient capacity, and besides the boats put oil and fuel into the river. However, someone had a neat idea to park the cars in Cockrill Bend and provide a monorail over to May Town. That would be cool.

    A bridge crossing the Cumberland River at the old ferry will have to (1) be of sufficient elevation to clear river traffic and (2) maintain an elevation above flood stage for emergency traffic to cross. The first several hundred feet over land will be bridge. I can't think of a better way to develop land while preserving archaeological sites than for them to fall beneath a bridge, having only the support piers potentially disturbing them and nothing else built around them.

    If every archaeological site was found, catalogued and preserved, and a $50 Million interactive/interpretive museum dedicated to the Mississippian culture of Native Americans was erected at the expense of the developer, we'd all be for May Town then?

    That's what I thought.

  13. A Mono Rail....sounds like it is an idea worth exploring. I am still absorbinb what you said about what you said about a bridge actually protecting archaeological sites, the way you put it sounds maked it seem reasonable and sensible.

    Yes in a perfect world every site would be found, catalogued and preserved....and we know that is not going to happen, so please allow those of us who are overly curious about our community's history to bemoan the fact that there are relics from our prehistoric past that will never be discovered.

    Is that what you thought?

  14. If every archaeological site was found, catalogued and preserved...

    See, that's the problem. The more info that comes out, the more it becomes apparent that any "plan" for cultural resources within the development footprint is spin and lies rather than an actual effort towards planning or preservation.

    Call it an issue of credibility, David. You say a comprehensive study has been done, when one has not. You say all the sites are known and accounted for, when they are not. Why should we believe you about the bridge footprint?

  15. I know this is a worn-out thread at this point, but I actually know who found the bones, which were at the edge of the water by the boat ramp, and were brought to our house, identified as human by my physician husband, and resided atop our freezer before the police arrived to take them away. Not sure what those details add.

    David, this is nothing more than a moneymaking scheme by a couple of guys who made a bad investment. Glad you're collecting a salary meanwhile. There is absolutely no way a cul-de-sac city at the end of one, two, or three bridges can be successful. It can be cute as can be, tight as a tick, walkable, have the most adorable greenish skirt around it, be as mixed-use as a Swiss army knife, protect the dead like a faithful dog--it's still gonna tank if you put it where no one goes already and where there isn't a web of access. You guys call it connectivity--and 3 bridges ain't it. Failure. Bankrupt. Bailout. Empty. Desolate.

    Design and spin away, boys. It's still on a dead end in a pasture. Fatal flaw. Of course, you've wrecked a bunch of good stuff along the way, but that only matters to the rest of us.