By Max Hrenda
For a while in 2011, it appeared as though the 8,600 acres that make up Doe Mountain Recreation Area would be sold to the highest bidder.
Less than two years later, however, that same acreage is expected by some to become one of Northeast Tennessee’s foremost outdoor destinations.
Last week, the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority announced it will seek proposals from environmental planning firms to develop a management plan for the area.
“We are entering the management planning phase for the Doe Mountain recreation area,” said Gabrielle Lynch, secretary and treasurer for the authority. “The plan will be developed over the next year with a lot of community and stakeholder input, since it’s such a large mountain and a large project for Johnson County.”
Lynch said the request was made publicly to foster a more competitive process.
“We wanted a number of consulting, environmental, and planning firms to have the opportunity to submit proposals and bids,” Lynch said. “This is going to be a blueprint for how the mountain is developed for recreational use.”
Lynch also serves as land acquisition manager for the Tennessee chapter of the environmental preservation organization The Nature Conservancy. In 2012 the group, along with the state of Tennessee, purchased the land in auction specifically to capitalize on the mountain’s natural splendor.
“The state really made an investment in Johnson County,” said County Mayor Larry Potter. “We came so close to losing this mountain. I’m very thankful for the chance.”
Chance may have played more of a role in the acquisition of the acreage than Potter may have meant. Previously, the land was privately owned and was not intended for public use.
“The property was slated for a high-end residential development outside of Mountain City,” said Lynch, whose office operates out of Johnson County. “The development failed because of the economy and other factors, so it went into bankruptcy proceedings.”