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Doe Mountain safe at last

After months of debate, discussion, and worry about its future, the more than 8,600 acres that make up Doe Mountain have been bought and saved by the state of Tennessee to preserve for Johnson County’s future. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey was a key element in helping to secure the mountain, which takes up a significant central portion of the county. At 8.8 million dollars, some members of the state legislature have been understandably concerned about including the project in the state’s proposed budget, but thankfully Ramsey has been a bastion of support for East Tennessee.
Having passed the Senate, the appropriation hit a snag in the House, as Western Democrats and some Republicans debated the expense. Fortunately, State Representative Scotty Campbell was able to work with Ramsey to gain the necessary support to pass the funding. “This is the biggest thing that has happened to Johnson County in a long time,” said Ramsey. “Not only will it promote their natural beauty, it will be a huge economic boon to them. We’ve studied what other places have done for ATV parks and bike paths and walking paths. When we get this structure put together, it will provide a lot of jobs for Johnson County.”
In addition to the funding the state also passed a bill creating a Doe Mountain Board of Authority. Unlike other similar land acquisitions in the past, Doe Mountain will become its own entity and will not be under another department such as the TWRA or TDEC. According to County Mayor Larry Potter, who has been heavily involved in the project since the land first became available, the board of authority will include both the county and city mayors, representatives from the TWRA, TDEC, and other state departments including economic development.
Although nothing is yet official Potter has already been looking extensively into the possibilities. The primary goal for Doe Mountain will be to create a network of multiuse trails. The first will likely be geared toward hikers and mountain bikers, because those trails are the easiest to construct, but Potter also sees ATV and OHV trails becoming very popular in the project.
There are several destinations that are currently being looked at including most prominently a retired forest service fire tower on one of the mountain’s main peaks as well as more scenic and localized areas such as Chimney Rock on the southern end of the mountain. Trails will likely be developed with different difficulties in mind to provide access to a wide variety of people. Potter has been researching examples of other such projects in the area, including the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system and the Pinnacle Trail in Unicoi County.
Access to the trails will likely be fee based with options for day use or extended period permits. The trailhead will probably be in the former headquarters of the Daniel’s Trace development off Harbin Hill Road. This would have also been the access point to the development if it had succeeded. Unfortunately, poor planning and the sudden death of one of the major developers led that project into foreclosure and began the race to save the mountain.
As the banks began looking for buyers, some of the first and most prominent were logging companies who sought to buy the land, clear cut it, and then salvage it for whatever price they could get after they were done. A couple of offers came very close to succeeding, but thankfully county and state officials acted quickly and helped prevent what could have been an environmental and economic disaster.
To read the entire story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.