Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Charles Ellenburg, April 16, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Being hired at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

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Partial Transcript: The following is an oral history interview conducted as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees' Association Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg explains how he was hired at TVA. Ellenburg also details his background in recreation.

Keywords: Academic background; Agencies; Chief of Recreation Branch; Class; Conference; Connections; Contract; Curriculum; Exciting; Extension; Family; Fun; Group; Happy; Hired; Indefinite; Interested; Interview; Job; Job offer; Major; Manager; Moving; National Parks Service (U.S.); New; Phone call; Position; Program; Rare; Recreation and Park Administration; Recreation assistance; Reunion; State agencies; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unfamiliar; Well-known

Subjects: Atlanta (Ga.); Clemson University; Education; Home; Insurance; Knoxville (Tenn.); Proud; Recreation; South Carolina; Talk; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States. Forest Service; Work

GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36.162222, -86.774444
GPS: South Carolina
Map Coordinates: 33.9169, -80.8964
GPS: Atlanta (Ga.)
Map Coordinates: 33.755, -84.39
GPS: Clemson University
Map Coordinates: 34.678333, -82.839167
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
00:05:14 - First position in recreation

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Partial Transcript: Now when you started at--uh--TVA--uh--what types of--uh--work did you have?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg details his first job in recreation at TVA, within the realm of technical assistance.

Keywords: Acreage; Applications; Ball fields; Boat ramps; Branch chief; Bureau of Outdoor Recreation; Busy; Campgrounds; Capability; Civil engineer; Community recreation; Community recreation appraisals; Connected; Contact; Data collection; Delivery of services; Demand; Department of Economic and Community Development; Draft; Focus; Grants; Help; Intentions; Land and Water Conservation grants; Land and water conservation fund; Landscape architect; Northern Alabama; Not good; Office of Tributary Area Development (OTAD); Open space; Organizations; Plans; Products; Projects; Public recreation areas; Recreation Planning group; Recreation opportunities; Regional Planning group; Request; Requirements; Reservoir; Reservoir Planning; Responses; Service; Service area; Services; Simple; South Central Tennessee; Special Studies group; Special studies; State parks; State trail systems; Surplus; Technical Assistance section; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Together; Trails group

Subjects: Alabama; Arizona; Building; Cities; Communities; Counties; Design; Drawing; Experience; Fire; Knoxville (Tenn.); Management; Memo; Money; Opportunity; Parks; People; Planning; Programs; Recreation; Retirement; Staff; States; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tennis courts; Trails

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36.162222, -86.774444
GPS: Alabama
Map Coordinates: 32.7794, -86.8287
GPS: Arizona
Map Coordinates: 34.2744, -111.6602
00:12:32 - Community recreation assistance in the 1970s

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Partial Transcript: The--uh--communities that you worked with, were they exclusively on the shore or adjacent to the shore...

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg talks of how communities received technical assistance from the TVA on recreation issues in the 1970s. Ellenburg also talks of the state of recreation in the TVA throughout its history.

Keywords: Ahead; Antiquated; Approval; Assist; Bank presidents; Beginning; Branch chief; Capability; Committee; Community; Congressional appropriations; Delivery systems; Director; Funded; Improvements; Local government; Mayor; New; No cost; No problems; Non-existent; Offer; Office of Tributary Area Development (OTAD); Parks and recreation; Pleasant; Power funds; Process; Projects; Recreation appraisals; Regional service; Response; Sample; Service; Small; Small towns; St. Joseph (Tenn.); TVA Board; TVA service area; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transition; Tributary Area Development; Watershed

Subjects: Alabama; Budget; Communities; Cost; Economics; Georgia; Good; Loretto (Tenn.); Memo; Mississippi; Money; North Carolina; People; Quality of life; Recreation; Revenue; South Carolina; States; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Vision

GPS: St. Joseph (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.035, -87.502222
GPS: North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.5557, -79.3877
GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 32.6415, -83.4426
GPS: Alabama
Map Coordinates: 32.7794, -86.8287
GPS: Mississippi
Map Coordinates: 32.7364, -89.6678
GPS: Loretto (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.078333, -87.438889
GPS: South Carolina
Map Coordinates: 33.9169, -80.8964
00:17:49 - TVA properties and recreation

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Partial Transcript: When--when did TVA begin to--uh--develop or encourage the development of public recreation areas along or--or around reservoirs?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg describes the evolution and history of recreation at TVA.

Keywords: Acres; Ahead; Antiquated; Approval; Commit; Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.); Condos; Connected; Construction; Degrading; Demolished; Draw; Electric system; Facilities; Federal contractor; Financial assistance; Fontana Dam (Tenn.); Fontana Resort; Fort Loudoun Reservoir (Tenn.); Generate revenue; Gone; Government Services Incorporated (GSI); Help; Inclusive; Investment; Involved; Land protection; Land transfer; Lease; Leaving; Local government; Local management; Lodging; Managed; Need; Not investing; Old; Original; Peppertree Properties; Problem; Property; Purpose; Re-invest; Region Director; Renew; Reservoir; Service; Services; Sewer system; Shareholders; Sold; State governments; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transferred; Unwilling; Watts Bar Resort

Subjects: Ability; Communities; Couples; Death; Food service; Gymnasiums; Knox County (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Land Between the Lakes (Ky. and Tenn.); Michigan; Money; Opportunity; Parks; People; Recreation; Regional planning; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Vision; Water; Work

GPS: Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.8626307, -84.1324237
GPS: Fort Loudoun Reservoir (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.8546389, -84.187416
GPS: Fontana Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.452222, -83.804722
00:24:30 - Recreation management on transferred lands

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Partial Transcript: That was one type of recreational assistance service.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg lists some of the groups that the TVA provided technical assistance to with recreation lands.

Keywords: Asked; Campers; Campground; Changed; Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.); Director of Department of Parks and Recreation; Eliminated; Groups; Hands-off; Help; Hired; Issue; Living; No turnover; Occurred; Owned land; Places; Problems; Professional; Quality development; Resolved; Restaurant; Stayed; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Terms of transfer; Transferred; Violated

Subjects: Camping; Knox County (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Marina; Meetings; Recreation; Standards; State governments; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water

GPS: Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.8626307, -84.1324237
GPS: Knox County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.99, -83.94
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
00:27:08 - Memories of technical assistance work

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Partial Transcript: Do you have any interesting memories or stories?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg shares some of his most vivid memories of his work in technical assistance for recreation.

Keywords: Approved; Chili Dean; College interns; Community; County executive; Delivery of service; Demonstration; Director; Evolved; Grant; Grant proposal; Help; Hired; Inside; Interesting; Land and water conservation funds; Left; Local; Major; Office; Outside; Present; Process; Program; Reaganomics; Recreation department; Results; S. David Freeman; Separated; Signature; Stayed; Summer recreation programs; TV crew; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Universities; Unwilling

Subjects: Contacts; Creation; Franklin (Tenn.); Growth; Interest; Management; Meeting; Memories; Nashville (Tenn.); Recreation; Schools; Students; Summer; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Williamson County (Tenn.); Women; Work

GPS: Williamson County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.89, -86.9
GPS: Nashville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.162222, -86.774444
GPS: Franklin (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.929167, -86.8575
00:32:06 - Budget issues during the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: You've mentioned--uh--Reaganomics. I just wanted to for historical accuracy...

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg discusses some of the budgetary difficulties that the recreation department in TVA faced.

Keywords: Capacity; Congressional appropriations; Congressional friends; Congressmen; Creation of service; Cut; Democrats; Eliminated; Focused; Generated; George H. W. Bush; Grateful; Howard Baker; Improving; Job; Powerful; Project Manager; Proposed; Reaganomics; Recommend; Republicans; Restore; Restored; Ronald Reagan; Senatorial committee; Senators; Speaking; Stayed; Support; Talking; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Budget; Communities; Politicians; Privatization; Quality of life; Recreation; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States. Office of Management and Budget

00:35:22 - Work as manager of community recreation projects

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Partial Transcript: At some point, you became the manager of a community recreation project.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg discusses his work as the manager of several community recreation projects.

Keywords: Appropriations; Army tents; Blackberry Farm; Campers; Chair; Connected; Degree; Director; District offices; Employee; Facilities; Farm; Federally-sponsored; Field; Flexibility; Focus; Followed; Gone; Gratifying; Great; Hired; Independent; Inspect; Interesting; Lamar Alexander; Local parks; Managed; Manager of Community Recreation; Melton Hill Dam (Tenn.); Melton Hill Reservoir (Tenn.); Neat; Nickajack Dam Reservation (Tenn.); North Chickamauga Creek Greenway; Olympians; Presentation; President's Commission on Americans Outdoors; Process; Programming; Project; Quick; Recommendations; Resource people; Respond; Return; S. David Freeman; Section; Selected; Service; Southeast; Summer recreation programs; Supplies; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trail systems; Trained

Subjects: Alabama; Change; Cooking; Dams; Greenways; Kingsport (Tenn.); Managers; Meeting; Membership; National Recreation and Park Association; People; Professionals; Programs; Raleigh (N.C.); Recreation; Special Olympics; Staff; Successful; System; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Trails; United States; Work

GPS: Melton Hill Reservoir (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.885278, -84.3
GPS: Nickajack Dam Reservation (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.004167, -85.619444
GPS: Raleigh (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.766667, -78.633333
GPS: Kingsport (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.533333, -82.55
00:41:50 - Work as a recreation planner

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Partial Transcript: In the--uh--1980s and beyond--uh--you were--uh--a recreation planner again.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg details his work as a recreation planner at TVA.

Keywords: Assessment; Assigned; Biologist; Central district; Chip mill; Decentralized; Developed; Different; Environmental impact statement; Environmental reviews; Exchange; Federal agency; Field; Focus; Frequent; Generated; Kingsport (Tenn.); Land and water conservation funds; Land transfer; Locations; North Chickamauga Creek Greenway; Private property; Process; Prolific; Property and service staff; Public use areas; Recreation planning; Requirements; Resource staff; Responsibilities; Review; Role; Significant; State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORP); State organizations; TVA land; TVA properties; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transferring land; Wildlife

Subjects: Alabama; Athens (Tenn.); Campgrounds; Change; Foresters; Kentucky; Norris (Tenn.); People; Perspective; Property; Recreation; States; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Transfer

GPS: Kingsport (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.533333, -82.55
GPS: Alabama
Map Coordinates: 32.7794, -86.8287
GPS: Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 37.5347, -85.3021
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
GPS: Athens (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.448171, -84.602069
00:45:24 - Land transfer issues

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Partial Transcript: I know there was an inholding on Fort Loudoun--uh--one of the first that we did.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg details an issue with land transfer that he encountered involving a property near Fort Loudoun Reservoir, Tennessee.

Keywords: Acres; Affected; Approved; Commented; Community activists; Development; Dissecting reservoir properties; Eagle's nest; Elevation; Envisioned; Evolved; Exchange; Factual information; Flooding; Follow; Forward; Influence; Land exchanges; Land policy; Land transfer; Landlocked; Not accessible; Not done; Not good; Objected; Opposed; Ownership; Politics; Potential impact; Property lines; Public outcry; Recreation review; Request; Reservoir; Resource people; Response; Role; Selectively; South Knox Wilderness Area; Stop; Subdivisions; Supporters; TVA Act; TVA Board; Tellico Dam (Tenn.); Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA); Waterfront

Subjects: Discipline; Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort); French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.); Inholdings; Knox County (Tenn.); Property; Recreation; Retirement; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water

GPS: Tellico Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.777778, -84.259722
GPS: Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort)
Map Coordinates: 35.595833, -84.203611
GPS: French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Knox County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.99, -83.94
00:49:41 - Tellico project / Recreation aspects

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Partial Transcript: Were there any other--uh--while you were in this position of Regional Planner...

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg recalls some of the more challenging projects that he worked on as a regional planner in recreation.

Keywords: Acres; Action; Benefits; Boating; Canal; Controversial; Director; Fairfield Glades (Tenn.); Form; Greenspace; Group; Industrial use; Interesting; Lots; No objection; Not impacting; Ongoing; Peninsula; Portion; Projected; Rarity Bay (Tenn.); Recreation land; Recreation-related; Request; Reservoir; Residential use; Right bank; Significant; Tellico Reservoir (Tenn.); Tellico Reservoir Development Agency; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tough

Subjects: Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort); Organization; Recreation; Regional planning; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Tellico Reservoir (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.777778, -84.259722
GPS: Fairfield Glades (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.994444, -84.885
GPS: Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort)
Map Coordinates: 35.595833, -84.203611
00:52:35 - Charging for recreation use

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Partial Transcript: Another action by TVA that crea--that I was involved in that was tough, it was tough on me and it created controversy was implementation of the first fee system from TVA to charge for its use of land, for recreation--commercial recreation.

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg highlights the change in policy of TVA recreational properties to charging patrons to use the facilities. Ellenburg talks of the difficulties of the implementation of this policy.

Keywords: Amount; Better; Book; Campgrounds; Car; Charge; Commercial recreation; Complex; Complicated; Component; Contacted; Development; Difficult; Duties; Easements; Encouraging; Fair market value; Fair share; Father; Fee system; Fort Loudoun Marina; Friends; Generate; Granted; House; Implementation; Land Use Recreation Specialist; Land office; Land rights; Lawyer; Lease; Left; Livid; Managing reservoirs; Not involved; Office; Opposition; Paying; Percentages; Phone call; Picnic table; Prepared lease; Process; Project; Properties; Property administrators; Realigned; Reasons; Reassigned; Reservoir charging system; Restructured; Rough; Ruben Hernandez; Secretary; Selected; Set; Set rates; Standard; Study; TVA lands; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Title; Today; Tough; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Unresolved; Unused; Vice president; View; Vivid

Subjects: Appraisers; Change; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Customers; Death; Emergency; Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort); Land use; Leases; Lenoir City (Tenn.); Marina; Memory; Money; Norris (Tenn.); People; Property; Recreation; Reservoirs; Retirement; System; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Fort Loudoun (Tenn. : Fort)
Map Coordinates: 35.595833, -84.203611
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
GPS: Lenoir City (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.7975, -84.271111
00:58:02 - Favorite parts of TVA

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Partial Transcript: Well, looking at your overall TVA career what--what did you like most about working at TVA?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg reveals his favorite aspects of working at TVA.

Keywords: Basis; Built; Cars; Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.); Continue; Continued; Created; Direct; Downtown; Enjoyed; Envisioned; Evolved; Expectations; Expertise; Field; Fun; Gratifying; Great; Harm's Dam (Tenn.); Help; Job; Junk car removal program; Junk cars; Land transfer; Loved; More; Neat; Office of Tributary Area Development (OTAD); Opportunities; Personable; Program; Projects; Recreation department; Recreation departments; Recreation opportunities; Resource program; Response; River; Smart; St. Joseph (Tenn.); Stacked; Sunset Park (Athens, Tenn.); Talented; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Thrilling; Today; Trails development; Truck

Subjects: Athens (Tenn.); Change; Communities; Design; Franklin (Tenn.); Jonesboro (Tenn.); Kingston (Tenn.); Knox County (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Loretto (Tenn.); Minor Hill (Tenn.); Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Parks; People; Recreation; Special Olympics; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Trails; Unique; Williamson County (Tenn.); Work

GPS: Concord Park (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.8626307, -84.1324237
GPS: Sunset Park (Athens, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.4386637, -84.5884306
GPS: St. Joseph (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.035, -87.502222
GPS: Jonesboro (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.294167, -82.4725
GPS: Kingston (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.880833, -84.508611
GPS: Athens (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.448171, -84.602069
GPS: Williamson County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.89, -86.9
GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Knox County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.99, -83.94
GPS: Minor Hill (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.038333, -87.171111
GPS: Tennessee River
Map Coordinates: 37.067222, -88.564722
GPS: Loretto (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.078333, -87.438889
GPS: Franklin (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.929167, -86.8575
01:03:23 - Project for states to develop technical assistance

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Partial Transcript: Actually there was one project we did--uh--late '70s...

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg talks of a project that he worked on to help states in developing their own programs for technical assistance in recreation.

Keywords: Annual information; Bigger picture; Changed; Continuing; Create; First director; Funded; Gratifying; Help; Indirect; Influence; Involved; Lawyer; Local governments; Local recreation; Local senator; Mills Park (Gatlinburg, Tenn.); Park; Parks and Recreation Technical Assistance Service (PARTAS); Per capita spending; Process; Project; Promoting; Promoting development; Public recreation; Recreation director; Recreation survey; Regional plans; Resources; Service; Service creation; Staff organization; State of Tennessee; State of Tennessee, Department of Environmental Conservation; State officials; State recreation association; State recreation services; State service; Study; Supporting; Talking; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Change; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Demonstrations; Design; Gatlinburg (Tenn.); Georgia; Good; Legislation; Money; North Carolina; Recreation; Staff; State governments; States; Technical assistance; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Virginia

GPS: Mills Park (Gatlinburg, Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.7396332, -83.4497821
GPS: North Carolina
Map Coordinates: 35.5557, -79.3877
GPS: Georgia
Map Coordinates: 32.6415, -83.4426
GPS: Virginia
Map Coordinates: 37.5215, -78.8537
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Gatlinburg (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.714167, -83.510278
01:07:39 - Recognition of work

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Partial Transcript: Was the--uh--significance of your work recognized outside the Tennessee Valley, in any way?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg reveals the level of recognition that his work in recreation for TVA has received throughout the years.

Keywords: Appreciated; Assistance; Boards; Calling; Colleague; Completed; Connected; Done; Federal recreation providers; Field; Hard; Help; Local government; Magazine; National Resources Group (NRPA); Nice; No awards; Recognition; Representative; Role; Southeast Recreation Consortium; Story; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Career; Federal government; Meeting; National Recreation and Park Association; Recreation; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Work

01:09:49 - Uniqueness of TVA

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Partial Transcript: My last question always is: are there any questions, or is there any question that I have not asked that you wish I had?

Segment Synopsis: Ellenburg shares what he thinks the most unique aspects of TVA are.

Keywords: Always; Available; Basic; Better; Camp; Campgrounds; Changing environment; Conveyed; Different; Efficient; Enjoyed; Facilities; Fair market value; Fee system; Fine; Flexibility; Indirect; Interesting; Justified; Managed; National parks Service (U.S.); Organizations; Private providers; Providers; Purpose; Resources; Respond; Section 24; TVA Act; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Threatened; Undeveloped

Subjects: Ability; Career; Evolution; Federal government; Good; Influences; Money; People; Politicians; Property; Recreation; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Unique; United States. Forest Service