UPDATE: Black Creek steps up security after vandalism
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- As the debate over using ATVs on Aetna Mountain continues, the Black Creek neighborhood is stepping up security efforts. This comes after vandals left their mark two weeks ago.
The road through the Black Creek neighborhood serves as a main artery to the top of Aetna Mountain.
Last month, the TWRA started cracking down on ATV use after silt erosion was discovered coming from the mountain.
In the meantime, tension remains between the neighborhood and those who want to access Aetna.
"I try to get up there to get away from all the problems of having to deal with the land and just enjoy the outdoors," Jeff Perlaky says. "Unfortunately, like this morning trying to go up, it thoroughly soured the experience."
Perlaky owns eight acres on top of Aetna Mountain.
Saturday morning, he came across a SEI security guard. She was passing out fliers, warning people of not parking on private property or they could be towed.
"I attempted to go up and she told me it was public road up until the pavement ends," says Perlaky.
He has pictures of construction equipment, either on purpose or by accident, blocking the road in the past.
But Perlaky has a court order from 2010, deeming the road a public access.
"I own property atop the mountain," he tells the guard. "This is a public road going to the top of the mountain. I have every right to."
Neighbors in Black Creek say recent vandalism and break-ins are why they need the security.
"There's no sense in that. They've damaged signs. You guys have had a story on that. There's no reason to do that. None," says Gary Haskew.
Haskew has lived in Black Creek for ten years. He says since the debate over Aetna started, the neighborhood has seen its share of trouble.
Channel 3 showed you the spray-painted signs two weeks ago. We are also told someone drove off-road vehicles on part of the golf course, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
"These people, for the most part, are good people that ride. They love to come here. They come from all states," says Haskew.
Haskew says it is a small group, making a bad name for themselves.
Perlaky does not condone the vandalism. He just wants fair access, but does not see the battle ending any time soon.
"I still anticipate trouble, unfortunately," he says.
"Just be respectful of the people that live here," Haskew says. "Don't tear it up, and don't vandalize our property."
Chattanooga Police came out and resolved the issue involving Perlaky.
Channel 3 talked with a general manager at Black Creek. He says they have had security before, but this is the first weekend they have had a guard on duty.
He says he does not think the security has been instructed to block the road.
This all comes as the TWRA and Black Creek developers plan on having a closed door meeting this Tuesday to discuss a proposed 'swap' of federally controlled land.
The following response was issued from the Black Creek Home Owner's Association, regarding the decision to hire SEI Security:
"The decision to hire SEI Security was made after the golf course experienced vandalism by an off road vehicle on February 5/6 and a break-in. The decision was made and SEI (was) contacted before signs along River Gorge Drive were vandalized on February 11.
"SEI is engaged to provide security for the overall development, including the River Gorge entrance to Black Creek Mountain. The security officer located on River Gorge Drive informs visitors of the location of the right of way, the location of private property, that there is no parking on private property, and no parking on the paved roadways. The officer also asks visitors to the mountain be sure to not litter and to limit their activities to the right of way and avoid entering onto private property. At no time are visitors told they may not go up the mountain."
Stay with WRCBtv.com for continuing coverage of this story.
- [READ MORE: Battle over Aetna continues, neighborhood vandalized]
- [READ MORE: Off-roaders continue fight to keep Aetna Mountain open]