Local News

Story published: 03-13-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Doe Mountain Authority continues with plans to get project up and running

By Jonathan Pleasant

Only a few months into the process, the Doe Mountain Recreation Board of Authority (DMRA) discussed the last measures to fully become an incorporated entity in the state at this monthís meeting in Johnson City. Having already submitted a charter a couple of months ago, the board is now turning to finishing up its bylaws as quickly and efficiently as possible. With this essential step behind them, control of the mountain will move from its placeholder in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservancy to the full authority of the DMRA.

Unfortunately, after speaking with officials at the state, Chairman Larry Potter informed the board that the expected soft opening will have to be delayed, but assuming that the process of approving the bylaws goes smoothly, the project could eventually be eligible for assistance from the state. One of the biggest problems the board has faced so far is a lack of actual funds for essential services including legal aid from an attorney.

An announcement was also made at this monthís meeting to confirm that a pro bono lawyer has come forward to offer her expertise. Mona Alderson, a former resident of Johnson County who has returned home after a successful legal career in the nationís capital, has joined the growing list of people who are very interested in Doe Mountain and seeing it succeed. Having already done some preliminary work for the board, Alderson most recently drew up a pro bono services agreement not only for herself† but for other interested parties including webmaster Tim Horne.

Alderson was unable to attend the meeting, but Secretary Gabby Lynch confirmed that upon the DMRAís approval the attorney was ready and willing to get to work on the organizationís bylaws.† Administration Committee Chair, Dr. Richard Strang, who officially introduced the board to Aldersonís pro bono offer, expressed his excitement about the experience that Alderson brings to the table.

Webmaster Tim Horne was also approved at this monthís meeting to take on the task of building the organizationís website. An essential part of the project, the website, found at www.doemountain.org, will serve to host any pertinent information concerning committee meetings, board meetings, and public comments, while the board is also looking ahead at the possibility of selling permits online. First considered last month, and with a long list of credentials and a strong desire to see the project flourish, Horne was the perfect candidate.

GIS expert Tina Delahunty, who has been an essential part of the project so far, gave an update of some of the information she has gathered and put into a digital mapping format. Detailing the existing trails already present on the mountain, Delahunty confirmed that the total mileage mapped had now grown from 24.5 miles to over 36 and that she intended to provide the information to local emergency management as a safety measure for potential future emergencies. Having done extensive work already, Delahunty even went so far as to discuss the possibilities of someday adding the trails to programs like Google Earth.

The professorís current focus is on locating and identifying the mountainís various waterways in the field and then checking them with her maps. Currently all streams, springs, and water features are listed the same, but Delahunty also announced that she would have a student on the ground later this year checking statistics including rainfall and the amounts of water present. This information will be added into a database detailing whether the sources are simply there at times of high water, seasonally, or perennially.

Delahunty has also been essential for working with the Roads and Trails committee to begin the process of identifying specific areas of the mountain that might be more suitable for one user group rather than another. Already there is interest in potentially developing an equestrian specific trail network near the Mining Town neighborhood in Neva, and a mountain biking trail on the western side of the mountain near the Welcome Center on Harbin Hill.

Speaking about other trail possibilities, committee chair Mike Farmer noted that Roads and Trails has also been open to other groups, including trails set by interest and demographic. Currently there are some preliminary plans to establish an easy, relatively level trail, also near the Harbin Hill entrance, to serve those looking to improve their health or simply enjoy a quick stroll in a beautiful location. There has also been some tentative work done to identify a suitable entrance to the property for OHV and ATV use.

Speaking about buffers and identifying all the potential access points for the mountain, the board is also starting to consider where an Adventure Tourism District could be established. A separate act that would give economic incentives for qualified businesses locating in the district, the Adventure Tourism bill is currently being amended in the state legislature, but the Adventure tourism committee is pulling together a preliminary idea of what areas in the county to target. Further, the committee has been charged with getting in touch with legislators to discuss what changes may be down the road.

To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.