By Jonathan Pleasant
There were just enough members present to have a quorum at last Tuesdays monthly Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA) meeting. Various representatives were away on other business, including Chairman Larry Potter who was called away to attend a special meeting in Nashville that will hopefully extend the DMRAs authority for an additional two years. Traveling with Potter was DMRA attorney Mona Alderson, but even understaffed the board was still able to get by thanks to the diligence of vice-chairman Dr. Richard Strang.
Mayor Potter did leave several announcements to be made to the board including new figures that revealed that more than 800 user passes have already been sold generating more than $25,000 in fees. Further, Potter was also optimistic about an upcoming $10,000 grant from Polaris which could be added to the list of successful grants that have already been associated with the project.
Anthony Duncan with SORBA Tricities, a local off road bicycle association, was present at the meeting to give an update on an ongoing grant possibility he has been heavily involved with that could help construct one of the more unique biking opportunities in the region. Two months ago, Duncan requested approval from the board to apply for a sizable Bell Helmets Built Grant to create a unique flow trail on the mountain that uses specific features to create an almost roller coaster like effect with minimal actual pedaling.
The board already gave their blessing to begin construction on a connector trail from the Harbin Hill entrance to the proposed flow trail site, and this month Duncan announced that the Doe Mountain project has been selected as one of 12 grant finalists nationwide. Divided into three distinct regions, West, Central, and East, Duncan will now be competing against three other projects in Georgia, Virginia, and New York to officially receive the grant money.
The final decision will be made through a voting process to be held May 5th through the 18th and if Doe Mountain does win the monies, EMBA Trail Solutions would be able to begin construction sometime between June and September. To that effect, Duncan also made a request to the board to grant their official endorsement and support for the project, noting continually growing interest in its development from individuals and groups around the nation.
TDEC Commissioner Brock Hill was particularly supportive of Duncan and his allies who have gotten the flow trail idea off the ground. Although there was some discussion of postponing a vote of support until the May meeting, Hill believed the endorsement was critical at this early stage, leading him to make a successful motion that was approved unanimously.
Also dealing with ongoing grant developments was TDECs Bob Richardson who has been an invaluable resource in navigating the complex requirements of Doe Mountains extensive Regional Trails Program (RTP) Grant covering nearly $250,000 in improvements the mountains facilities and existing trail network. Providing the board with an ongoing timeline, Richardson has also been masterfully working with other resources, including a $40,000 TN 319 grant to help cover the RTPs required match of $49,000.
Although there has been some extensive juggling of finances in light of specific time constraints, Richardson did seem to indicate the board is currently on schedule for a hopeful beginning construction date of June 1st. The grant monies will cover drainage improvements at Harbin Hill, the construction of public restrooms, parking and trail restoration at the Morefield Creek entrance to the mountain on Highway 167 and restoration of the main through trail. Most recently the board has been in partnership with Brushy Fork Engineering from Trade, who helped get the additional TN 319 monies and will likely play an essential role in some of the more complex trail restoration.
Having reviewed the newly revised budget for the RTP, Richardson requested approval of the document, which he received in the form of a motion from City Mayor Lawrence Keeble. Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff seconded and the board gave their full consent. With this step completed the grant budget will now need federal highway approval but is one step closer to completion.
The RTP Budget wasnt the only thing revised this month, as DMRA secretary Gabby Lynch presented the board with the second official draft of the Doe Mountain Master Plan. Having taken into account numerous suggestions from the board members, the new document has been streamlined, is much more readable, and incorporates far more immediately practical information than the original draft provided by Farmer-Morgan.
However, Lynch did indicate that even more changes are likely before a final plan is ultimately adopted. Providing just enough copies for the board members, Lynch explained that she and others such as Chairman Potter would like to see one more direct review by the board before a draft is officially released to the public for their input. It is likely that several more drafts may be created before a final is selected but hopefully the document will become the guiding force for Doe Mountains overall future.
Other updates included an announcement from Vice-chairman Strang that the administration committee is still working diligently toward the creation of the first Doe Mountain Budget as well as ongoing information about the DMRAs website and future potential brochures that may be developed. Overall it was the shortest DMRA meeting to date, but still involved decisions that could have a serous bearing on the projects continued success. Hopefully the full board will be back in force in May, where yet another chapter will be added to the ongoing story that is Doe Mountain.
By Jonathan Pleasant