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Plans for Doe Mountain are discussed at organizational meeting

It was a packed house at the Doe Mountain organizational meeting hosted by County Mayor Larry Potter last week. Held in the main courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse and open to questions or concerns from the public, the meeting was very nearly standing room only as Mayor Potter discussed the future of the recently acquired mountain. Although there were a few residents who brought up potential concerns, the meeting was very positive overall, with numerous local business owners, property owners, and local officials in attendance to show their support.
Mayor Potter began the meeting with an overview of how the more than 8,600 acres that make up Doe Mountain ended up in the state’s hands. Following the failure of the planned Daniel’s Trace Development and several attempts by commercial logging companies to buy the property for clear cutting, Mayor Potter began working closely with Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey to try and broker a deal for the state to purchase and preserve the mountain. Because the land makes up a very large portion of the central part of the county, a clear cutting operation would have been devastating not only to the environment but the already weakened local economy as well.
Thankfully the Nature Conservancy, a large environmentalist group dedicated to saving natural lands, stepped up and acted as a bridge and safeguard to help buy time for the state. The Conservancy’s Alex Wyss was present at the meeting to give his congratulations to the county now that the mountain has been secured. Wyss went on to say that, “This was the most complex deal the Conservancy has ever been involved in,” and also stands as a prime example of the organization’s new approach to conservation. The new model, according to Wyss is to not just passively acquire the land and set it aside, but to “actively see these natural places work and help boost local economies.”
Because Doe Mountain is the first attempt at such a project, the Conservancy is committed to seeing it succeed, in the hopes of having more such projects spring up in other areas of the state. Yet, even beyond the Nature Conservancy, this is also the first time that Tennessee has ever attempted to buy and create a self-governing entity of this nature.
According to Mayor Potter, “This was 8.8 million dollars invested in Johnson County. In today’s environment, that it huge.” Aside from preserving the land, the main goal for Doe Mountain is the creation of numerous multiuse trails for biking, hiking, horseback riding, and off highway vehicles. The mountain will be operated under a 15-member board of authority made up of county and city representation as well as representatives from several state departments. The board will form 20 days after the final official closing of the purchase and potential members include Governor Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, Mayor Potter, Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble, and representation by local citizens, TWRA, TDEC, and various other state offices.
Although this is the first time for Tennessee, surrounding states such as Kentucky and West Virginia have had very successful examples of such projects, including the extensive Hatfield-McCoy Trail System which now spans nine counties and brings in millions of dollars to the local economy each year.
To discuss the actual specifics of what can be done with Doe Mountain, Mayor Potter asked members of the Mountain Trail Riders Association to attend the meeting as well. Based out of Piney Flats and with more than 500 members, this group has had extensive experience building multiuse trails and hopes to play a significant role in Johnson County. Several members of the Association’s board were present, including Spokesman Mike Farmer, President Jody Jameson, and Vice President Sam White.
Taking a preliminary look at the property, White announced that Doe Mountain has the potential for 150 miles of trails, separated by their use and difficulty. Even more importantly, much of the foundation work is already in place from old trails that were present decades ago. White expressed that the group was very excited to be involved with this project, stating that Doe Mountain could become one of the premier trail destinations not only of the local region but of the entire East Coast.
To read the complete story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.