An Un-Civil War

Posted: December 31, 2021 in The Battle of Nashville
Tags: , , ,

Kelley’s Point (Brookmeade Park) Under Siege – Again

Brookmeade Greenway 2016

December 12, 2021

In the late 1990s I began research on a little known American Civil War battle site near where I grew up in West Nashville. Having served in the Navy, I was captivated by the fact that, not only was it the location of a Civil War battle, it was the location of a Civil War Naval battle. There was little more than a footnote in the accounts of The Battle of Nashville that I could find. 

The 1864 saga fell together at my fingertips with the recently released computerized naval official war records (N-OR). About the same time, an opportunity presented itself to publicize this story when the historic site was set for a massive commercial real estate development.

The real estate project was opposed by much of the community. Among many concerns, it was also a Native  American burial ground including 100+ stone-box graves. As a compromise, the developer agreed to protect 14 acres of the site as a public park and wetland. It was an easy sell to Mayor Bill Purcell whom I had met at a Greenways of Nashville fundraiser when he was running for Nashville Mayor. Additionally, I knew Bob Bogen, who was running to unseat the incumbent councilman (whom had been called out by many for taking sides with the developer). Prophetically, many in West Nashville feared what this mega shopping center could do to this quiet residential community. Their fears have proven well founded.

I have been photographing the site extensively over the last 20 years. In 2016, I shot this 360º photo sphere (Google link) from the river overlook platform. There was no sign of camping there on or near the river. Today there are dozens, in just this location alone with new interconnecting trails. My point is, this is a more recent development than assumed. 2016 is also the same year the massive homeless  community were evicted from downtown Fort Negley. Coincidence?

I have watched the homeless problem here for many years. I’ve served with Habitat, Room in the Inn and the Nashville Rescue Mission. But this time, I am seeing it up-close and personal.

In 2020 I was interviewed by a local TV station about the condition of the park. Frankly, I was outraged by the dive it had taken since my last visit the year before. During the interview in the park parking lot, there was a young white guy screaming at his girlfriend running around with an axe in his hand. The TV station videographer was so unnerved, he refused to enter the park with us to take a closer look.

I was ready to speak my outrage, and then I met a park “resident” named Liz.  She was the softer side of the tribe living there. Liz calmed my temperament for the moment, and broadened my perspective. I decided that the middle of a pandemic was not the time to publicly call for their all-out eviction. 

This September, I was making a park inspection with some friends of our group when I met Jake. He was walking to the Greenway sporting a USMC ball cap and a MANNING football jersey on his frail frame. I introduced myself to Jake as a fellow veteran, as he winked at my friend Rebecca. Jake clearly had a buzz on, but was very friendly and in good spirits (NPI). I asked him if he knew about Operation Stand-Down (a homeless veterans assistance non-profit). He said he did, and was getting a roof over his head soon.

Jake got his own Section 8 apartment last week. Tiffany with The Salvation Army deserves most of the credit for this. She has worked with Jake for at least the last five years. The elation in her voice on our social media forum was overwhelming when she broadcast the good news.


Gut-punch on the one-yard line: a few days ago Jake died unexpectedly.

At least he passed away in the dignity of his own residence. What if housing had been provided sooner? Recovery services? We will never know. One courageous Salvation Army gave her all, but we as a city, and we as a country, FAILED Jake (USMC).

There are three varieties of homeless I have seen in Brookmeade Park, with a very few exceptions: addicts, mentally ill and criminals. Each need a place: recovery, mental illness institutional care (which this country has abandoned) and jail – respectively.

This epidemic crisis is now literally at our suburban doorsteps. It is a community crisis that needs an all-hands-on-board effort: community, city, state and federal assistance. Let’s make Nashville a national model for solving this national problem.

December 12, 2021

River Landing – by Bill Brewer
Jake Video

The back story of “Jake”:

The Epic Fail at Brookmeade Park

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