Local News

Story published: 09-04-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Farmer Morgan chosen as planning firm for Doe Mountain

By Jonathan Pleasant

The Master Planning process can be one of the most important parts to any successful project. In the case of Doe Mountain, which has more than 8,600 acres of diverse and unique terrain that can easily accommodate a variety of recreational activities, the need for a well-written and adaptable plan is immense. Detailed information must be collected and presented in such a way that local leaders can use the plan to guide their decisions and make smart choices about the continued growth and success of the project.

Used correctly, the master plan can identify assets and potential problems and present solutions for successful implementation. This information can come from a variety of sources ranging from simple demographic statistics such as the age of the local population and average household incomes, to data collected from surveys, or even as far as precise analysis done through  geospatial mapping. Regardless of how the plan is created, the final product should ideally become the blueprint for the project.

As a part of the enabling legislation creating the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA), a detailed master plan must eventually be adopted and put into place. Numerous firms across the country provide these services, but cost is always a factor. Fortunately Doe Mountain has been a group effort from its inception, incorporating support from the state and local governments as well as private groups such as the Nature Conservancy. In fact, it was the Conservancy that graciously granted more than $100,000 to fund the project’s master plan, and whom consequently handled the contracting process with the selected firm.

The DMRA has been involved in every aspect of the selection, from drawing up a request for proposals to actually whittling down the top ten submissions. Ultimately the last votes were cast and the Conservancy formally accepted Farmer Morgan from the Nashville area as the choice to handle Doe Mountain’s plan. Ben Farmer, one of the top representatives from the firm, presented an outline of how the planning process should go at a DMRA board meeting a few weeks ago, but has since been actively working to increase public awareness as well.

At a recent meeting with County Mayor Larry Potter, Farmer explained some of the future steps that his firm is preparing to take. Currently Farmer Morgan is in the data collection and analysis phase where they are looking through both federal and state information including census and economic data. Detailed online surveys will also be posted to give Farmer a means to gauge actual interest against the large scale information that is available.

“Our custom surveys are compared to the state and federal data to make sure it isn’t skewed,” Farmer said. “This is very much data driven, analysis driven. It takes time when you’re developing 8,600 acres. It’s a big track of land, there’s no doubt of that. It needs to be a destination experience. Rather than satisfying one particular user group, you want to have a high quality experience for that particular use but also feed into other user groups as well.”

Once enough preliminary info is gathered to begin forming a rough outline of the plan, public input will take the forefront, particularly in a week long information sharing process known as a Charette.  “We will also be working with local stakeholders during the design Charette the week of Nov. 4th,” Farmer said. “We’ll have an open door policy. Our team will be here 24 hours a day in Mountain City and it will be a lot of fun. We’re still trying to find a location that’s appropriate, but we’ll have formal meeting nights that week and throughout those days people that are interested but wouldn’t stand up in that meeting can come by.”

While still several weeks away, the charette will likely be one of the biggest sources of information that Farmer Morgan is going to use. Maps of the project and questions about usage will serve to help the company both inform the public about the plan’s progress and also to gather new information and ideas. Once that week is up, Farmer sees the firm getting down to the work of actually creating a draft plan.

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