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Passes to Doe Mountain are selling very well

With the first official opening of the mountain now four weeks underway, the hot topic of this month’s Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA) Board meeting turned to finances. Chairman Larry Potter confirmed that already more than $15,000 in passes has been sold, a surprising number considering weather and time of year. Most visitors have been from surrounding states like North Carolina and Virginia, and even though the mountain only has limited trail access right now, comments have been very positive.
On that note, DMRA attorney Mona Alderson also commented that there have been very few complaints from adjacent property owners, thanks in part to the diligence of the mountain’s volunteer staff of Trail Ambassadors. Noise concerns, especially near Harbin Hill, were one of the most heated issues prior to the soft opening, but most members of the board agreed that so far equipment restrictions concerning decibel levels have been followed and there hasn’t been any major problems so far.
However, while noise concerns seem to have abated, other issues have arise. TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill, along with Chairman Potter, actually opened the meeting by announcing that the state has received numerous concerns about water quality issues and potential disturbance to endangered species. Hill could not provide a specific incident, but cautioned that the board did need to take especial care with any trail construction or other development that could affect these natural factors.
The board has already proven very diligent in that regard, establishing a natural resources committee, continuously seeking the advice and supervision of TDEC officials such as Tom Issacs and Bob Richardson, and proceeding very cautiously with the limited trail construction that has gone on. Hill acknowledged that the DMRA has been very vigilant but also cautioned that the board needs to continue to comply with all regulations and guidelines and not grow lax as the project continues to develop.
For their part the various members spoke very openly on the subject, confirming their commitment to preserving and sustaining the unique environmental aspects of the site. Currently TDEC is already consulted before work is done on most any project, and sensitive areas potentially containing endangered species are being properly identified and protected.
These issues aside, the board also set about a variety of other tasks including the adoption of a formal procurement policy that mirrors Johnson County’s. Following these general guidelines, anything purchased by the DMRA in an amount over $10,000 would require a formal bidding process, while purchases under $10,000 would fall into a more simplified system requiring only three or more quotes on cost. There was also an addition that emergency purchases can be made under a certain limit by members of the board who are also designated managers.
Alderson also discussed a future rule making hearing concerning the formal adoption of user fees. The board looked at potential changes in the current fees, including increasing daily OHV passes from $18 to $20 to help reduce the amount of change needed on hand, but ultimately it was decided that more information would be needed from the Draft Master Plan that is to be presented in February. The rule making hearing won’t actually take place until the beginning of 2015, and by then it is expected that other user groups may come on board with differing or alternative user fees of their own.
Other issues discussed included the potential development of a “Friends of Doe Mountain,” organization and the possibility of eventually offering lifetime passes, potentially through sizeable donations. While these items will likely be discussed in more depth later in the future passes will continue to be sold at the current rates. The one new addition was the advent of Doe Mountain gift certificates, which can now be purchased and used toward the acquisition of a user pass.
Anthony Duncan with the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) attended the meeting and made a formal request before the board to allow further pursuit of a potential new mountain biking trail to be constructed near the Harbin Hill entrance. At roughly a mile in length, Duncan has already visited the site several times and discussed it in depth with the Roads and Trails Committee. The official request was to pursue the potential trail farther by actually flagging and using GPS to identify the exact route. With recommendation of several board members, including Mike Farmer, a successful motion was made to allow Duncan to proceed.
Construction of the bike trail also took center stage when the board discussed the future of their Regional Trails Program Grant, awarded by the state. Involving significant research and paperwork, the grant has numerous specific requirements, which are often very difficult to traverse. When the grant was originally applied for one of the projects it was to fund involved parking at the Harbin Hill entrance. Much of that work was consequently done through other grant funding and the board has since been looking at re-scoping the RTP to use the funding for other projects.
While this is very possible, Bob Richardson with TDEC did confirm that it would likely hold up access to the monies for other projects as well. The re-scoping would likely be diverted to help build the bike trails, but the board did get into a heated discussion concerning whether or not it would be best to wait until further results of the master planning process are revealed in February. There was also subsequent debate over the management of the RTP grant and how a grant administrator might be acquired. Ultimately it was decided to table the issue until next month, but Richardson did caution that formal word needs to be sent that the DMRA is still planning on utilizing the grant monies now that re-scoping is underway.
Because grants often come with complex strings attached, Attorney Mona Alderson proposed to the board that any future grant applications should be legally reviewed before the board makes a decision. While there was some discussion about outside organizations applying on Doe Mountain’s behalf, the board eventually agreed to Alderson’s suggestion.
One of the last points of business for the evening was a motion made by administration committee Chairman Dr. Richard Strang who addressed the importance of trying to find and acquire a CPA to handle the board’s first formal audit. While cost will likely be a factor, Strang’s successful motion specifically requested authority for the Administration Committee to proceed.
With nothing further on the agenda the final discussion concerned the location of next month’s meeting, which will be held at Doe River Gorge in Hampton on January 7th.