By Jonathan Pleasant
After officially opening the mountain to bikers last month, the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority ushered in the next two user groups at last Tuesdays meeting in Johnson City. Following much deliberation and information gathering by the DMRAs subcommittees both hunters and horseback riders will now be welcomed to the 8,600 acre property. Officially the mountain is still operating under a soft opening, meaning that much of the major infrastructure is either missing or under construction.
This was one of the major concerns involving both groups, but especially equestrian users who currently have no stables, watering facilities, and only one dedicated trail. While all these things will undoubtedly play a role in Doe Mountains future, many of the board members were keen to get the information out there that equestrian use as it now stands is very basic and primitive. Horseback riders will also have to deal with shared use trails and limited parking facilities.
Over the last month members of several local equestrian groups were asked to attend meetings of the Roads and Trails Committee, and Chairman Mike Farmer confirmed that even with these worries there was still an overwhelming support for opening up the property to horses. Most highlighted the fact that the majority of riders right now will likely be local and pointed out several private accesses to the mountain, especially on the Highway 167 side of the property, that are more preferable than the Harbin Hill entrance.
With all this in mind, Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble made the motion to allow equestrian use, which was seconded by Farmer. The only other addition that came up in discussion was an effort to clearly explain the limited scope of services the mountain now offers on the DMRA website. The hope is that with the information out there, visitors from farther destinations wont make the trip and then be disappointed with their expectations.
The explanation about private access to the mountain from surrounding land owners did also lead to a discussion about establishing a policy governing those accesses, but with attorney Mona Alderson not present there was more speculation than actual answers. Regardless, DMRA officials did seem to agree that an agreement of some variety needs to be established with adjacent property owners to ensure that new trails are not being established without explicit DMRA oversight.
The decision to allow hunting on the mountain stemmed from several recommendations made by the Hunting and Shooting Sports Committee, which included the TWRAs John Gregory. Mayor Lawrence Keeble read off each of the five recommendations which included allowing all hunting seasons as governed by the TWRA, requiring all users to wear at least 500 square inches of blaze orange during the big gun bear and deer seasons, establishing an off limits boundary within and downgrade of the mountains power line corridor, and requiring all users to have an appropriate pass based on their mode of transportation.
All of these regulations are already enforced by the TWRA with a few exceptions. While the state does enforce the blaze orange rule for hunters, the DMRA will be in charge of making sure other users are meeting requirements, and of course the TWRA has no authority over the mountains user pass system. The power line corridor exclusion is also above and beyond the states rules which say that hunting is not allowed within 100 yards of a residence or development. The last recommendation reviewed by the committee would also allow some night hunting, but only by request and at the permission of the park managers.
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By Jonathan Pleasant