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Future of Doe Mountain Rec. Authority in question

By Katie Lamb,
Freelance Writer

A Sunset hearing has been scheduled before the Joint Government Operations Committee in Nashville, for the Tennessee Legislature to review the performance of the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA).
Scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, 2019, the Committee will in part decide whether to continue the Authority beyond June 30, 2020.
“The mission of the DMRA is to transform Doe Mountain into a safe, fun, family-oriented outdoor recreational destination that promotes local economic development while conserving and preserving its beauty, woods, water, and wildlife,” said Tate Davis, Executive Director for DMRA. “As DMRA Executive Director, I personally believe the Authority is fulfilling its mission.”
Doe Mountain is an 8,600-acre, densely forested mountain located just southwest of Mountain City, Tennessee. The Nature Conservancy and the state of Tennessee collaborated to purchase the mountain to be parkland open to the public. The acquisition helps to conserve one of the largest remaining blocks of forest in private ownership in the Southern Blue Ridge region.
The mountain forests and its environs harbor some 40 rare species of plants and animals as well as plentiful species such as deer, turkey, and black bear. The summit of Doe Mountain is approximately 3,900 feet above sea level. Doe Mountain now accommodates hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and low-impact ATV use. The state of Tennessee manages the land under the direction of the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority board. The Nature Conservancy has a seat on the board,” www.nature.org.
The Sunset review process evaluates whether or not a state agency should be abolished. The idea is to cut excess government spending by holding state agencies accountable. Recommendations by Sunset typically aim to eliminate wasteful programs or programs that serve similar functions in multiple agencies.
“The State gave DMRA $300K to be used in three years, $100K per year, for 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, but the State held back the final $100K for this season,” Davis said. “I do not see any benefits of closing the facility down.”
Johnson County Mayor, Mike Taylor, agreed when he said, “It troubles me immensely when I hear that a positive future for Doe Mountain may not be the case. It is paramount to the economic future of this county, and region that Doe Mountain is able to continue to thrive. We currently are experiencing steady growth in the number of visitors to our county, many of those participating in our local economy.”
Taylor emphasized his belief in the evidence that growth was a factor in our county’s recent ability to balance a budget this year, without a tax increase and that as a member of the Doe Mountain Board, he has seen the staff go above and beyond what I thought possible, to overcome the challenges faced daily.
“We are now beginning to see the fruits of such efforts,” he said. “My plea for this Mountain, County, Region, and State is that we don’t turn back, but that we follow the lead and vision of our new Governor Lee, and push forward with Rural Tourism.”
DMRA has received grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to rehabilitate existing trails, to construct new trails, and to restore the historic Kettlefoot Fire Lookout Tower and it also works with the Regional Trails Program (RTP) for trail improvements, Phase 1.
The Authority completed an application for a Phase 2 RTP grant requesting up to $1 Million in funds for additional improvements, which has been accepted by the Tennessee Department
of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is currently pending before the Federal Highway Administration.
The Authority completed the Fiscal Year 2019 Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) marketing grant at the end of June. The grant assisted with social media marketing and undoubtedly helped boost visitors to Doe Mountain.
The Authority now plans to participate in another marketing grant for the Fiscal Year 2020 recently awarded to the Johnson County government.
“This month will already fall in our top 10 best ever,” Davis said. “I am excited about our future, and I am amazed at the outpouring of support from our people, our businesses, our volunteers, and our visitors. I want to thank everyone for the
hard work, and all of the stress endured the past few weeks.”
Davis believes that the project will emerge from a crucible of adversity to find new strength and set new goals along a journey to truly become “one of the most spectacular parks anywhere in Tennessee, Appalachia and eventually America.”
For more information about Doe Mountain Recreation Authority contact the office at 423-291-1598 or email [email protected]