Tennessee, Coalmont to announce land acquisition for off-road vehicle park

Tennessee, Coalmont to announce land acquisition for off-road vehicle park

August 12th, 2017 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

IF YOU GO:

What: Ribbon-cutting

Who: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Brock Hill, Coalmont Mayor Preston Miller

When: Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. CDT

Where: Coalmont Community Center, 60 Phipps St., Coalmont, Tenn.

More than 1,300 acres of the Cumberland Plateau in Grundy County, Tenn., have been acquired for the development of a long-planned off-road vehicle park.

The official announcement is set for Monday at the Coalmont Community Center in Coalmont, Tenn., a town of fewer than 1,000 people that officials hope to turn into a tourist destination.

The Southern Gulf Off Road Park — the name of the coming haven for ATVs, off-road motorcycles, Jeeps, Humvees, and other dirt-sport vehicles — was being planned several years before the state initially certified the area as an "adventure tourism district."

The designation allows off-roaders to legally drive on public roads to gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores and other Coalmont-area businesses, creating a potential economic boost for the community, officials said in 2014.

Now the property has been acquired, paving the way for opening the park to the off-roading public.

According to a Friday release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, The Conservation Fund and the city of Coalmont, Mayor Preston Miller will announce the city's acquisition of 1,319 acres and conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Conservation Fund facilitated the property acquisition on the city's behalf, officials said. The Southern Four Wheel Drive Association has had a major hand in development by providing volunteer muscle to the project.

Miller said Friday there is still some work to do before people can access the park, and the park's board of directors is still working out the details of fees and permits.

Officials don't want to develop the park's amenities too fast without some user input, Miller said. The park will start out with gravel parking areas and restrooms, he said. Future ideas include picnicking and RV camping facilities for people who want to stay and play, and other features users demand most.

A couple of roads lead from state Highway 56 — the main highway through Coalmont — to B Mine Road, which leads into the park area, Miller said. The mayor said a little work would be required to make all the park's connections usable for visitors.

Future development and funding for it will be driven by users, he said.

"We will develop it as funding is established," Miller said. And as use grows, so will the park, he said.

A 2011 survey of more than 1,200 potential park users, mostly from the Southeast, showed that 61 percent earned more than $50,000 a year. About 70 percent said they would spend at least $200 per trip to visit the park.

Off-roaders will need food, snacks, groceries, fuel, places to stay or camp, and nighttime fun, he said. Those are business opportunities, the mayor said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.


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