Jasper, Tenn., mayor irritated by riders

Jasper, Tenn., mayor irritated by riders

May 1st, 2013 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Mayor Paul Evans

Photo by By Dick Cook

JASPER, Tenn. - When Jasper Mayor Paul Evans asked Marion County commissioners to change their position on Aetna Mountain Road, his plea fell on deaf ears.

Last month, the board voted to support the view that a six-mile stretch of the road is for public use after the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency blocked access to it.

Evans, who owns property on the mountain adjoining the resource agency's land, said last week that commissioners should have investigated the issue more thoroughly before making a decision.

"I'd like to know how [the board] came to that conclusion," he said. "All the property owners should have been here to present their side of this problem."

The board's position has "greatly affected" him, he said, and caused "several complications" because people trespass on his property by accessing the road.

"All I would ask for is [to] respect my right as a property owner," Evans said. "Stay off my property, and if you want a place to go ride, go buy you a place. That's my property. It's posted."

County commissioners didn't budge on their stance after Evans advised them to look up "Aetna Mountain" on YouTube so they could see "what kind of a road that is."

County Attorney Billy Gouger said the board's vote last month was a "limited response" to a letter that TWRA Region III Manager John Mayer sent to County Mayor John Graham requesting the county's position on the road.

"It was not to declare anything a public road or private road," he said. "It was simply whether the county recognized it to be public or private."

The board's response was that historically the county has considered it a public road, he said.

"That appeared to be consistent with judicial decisions from Hamilton County," Gouger said. "It's really no more than that. Unless the consensus of [the board] is to change its position, there is nothing else to do."

Graham said unless the road is a part of the official county road list, there is "no obligation of [the county] at all" related to it.

Joe Busch, the TWRA's District 32 law enforcement captain, said his organization wants only to know the county's official position on the road.

"We're not trying to push one way or another, contrary to popular opinion," he said.

"Believe me, you're not going to get from point A to B on that road," Evans said. "This is an issue of people getting out there and destroying property. There's no way you can travel that road."

Commission Chairman Les Price said the board has heard just about everyone's opinion on the issue.

"I don't know that we're trying to decide anything at this point," he said. "We've let people talk, but this is probably not going to be the end of it."