Battle over Aetna continues, neighborhood vandalized
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB)- The battle over allowing ATVs on Aetna Mountain continues, leaving one neighborhood with vandalism to clean up.
In January, TWRA started cracking down on stopping the use of off-road vehicles on the top of Aetna Mountain. The move came after the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation discovered silt erosion coming off the mountain, flowing into the Tennessee River. It deemed ATVs part of the cause.
Needless to say, the saga between the riders, the TWRA and a neighborhood development continue.
"It makes us look bad and we're not the one's that's vandalized their signs," says Christie Perkins.
Perkins wants to clear the air.
Her 500 member off-road club, 'We Rock,' is upset over TWRA posting signs, banning ATVs from the area known as Cummings Cove, but not upset enough to do vandalism.
Sometime Friday night, someone, or a group of people, spray painted signs in the Black Creek neighborhood. One we can not show because of the language.
"All of our members are asked to use this entrance to the mountain," says Perkins.
She says the 'We Rock' entrance to the mountain is about eight to 10 miles from Black Creek, which is on the other side of the mountain.
Her members use a key to get through a gate to access the club's 80 acres. She is confident it was not someone from the club who painted the signs.
Why is Black Creek a target in all this? Channel 3 obtained a map, showing developers proposing a 'land swap' with TWRA, essentially pushing back the border of the federally protected land in order to pave a road for the neighborhood.
"I just want to know if they do swap properties," says Perkins.
TWRA maintains, it is just a proposal. They would need federal approval to tamper with a Wildlife Management Area.
Many riders believe the Black Creek proposal, not the erosion discovery, is why they can not ride.
We spoke with one neighbor who has lived in Black Creek for the past ten years. She did not want to go on camera for fear of retaliation. She says this is not the first time the neighborhood has dealt with vandalism.
She says ATV riders have driven through flower beds in the neighborhood, knocking down the stone walls on purpose.
On top of that, the neighborhood serves as a main artery to the mountain, with constant traffic in and out.
In the meantime, Perkins has a strong message for her club riders.
"If my members are found vandalizing any public or private property, they will be asked to leave the club. And they won't be able to come back," says Perkins.
Cummings Cove was deemed a Wildlife Management Area back in 2006, which meant no ATV use, but Perkins says her club was never notified of that.
She also maintains her club has always taken care of the land and they have never witnessed any erosion problems.
TWRA is set to have a closed-door meeting with Black Creek February 21st to discuss the proposed 'land swap.'
They are also supposed to meet with other land owners on Aetna Mountain sometime in March to answer questions but that date has not been set.
You can count on us to follow this story.