BIG STONE GAP — Town council made an effort Tuesday to put to rest concerns from local residents about having the Spearhead Trails organization do trail work near the Big Cherry reservoir.
Council voted unanimously to allow Town Manager Steve Lawson to sign a land use agreement with Spearhead Trails.
Before it passed, council member Tyler Hughes amended the motion to state that Spearhead Trails would have proper oversight from the town and its consulted experts.
One of those experts is Shayne Fields, a professional trial builder for the city of Norton.
Hughes had earlier stated that he shares some concerns as far as oversight of Spearhead Trails.
Big Stone Gap resident William Harris asked how the trail would be maintained and policed.
Adam Malle, another resident, provided council with photos of trail work allegedly done by Spearhead Trails that showed steep inclines and deep ruts. Malle asked what was being done to ensure that Spearhead Trails will not do the same thing at Big Cherry.
Lawson addressed the concerns while showing the area on Google Maps.
According to Lawson, Spearhead Trails will not be creating a new trail on the town’s property. The land use agreement allows Spearhead Trails to maintain an existing, unused logging road that starts near the main road to the reservoir and goes to the Scott County line, about one mile. The trail will connect with equestrian trials in Scott County, but will also be for hiking and mountain bike use.
Lawson stated that the logging road isn’t being maintained or policed now.
“Our problem as town of Big Stone Gap right now is, we have no way of monitoring this,” said Lawson. “Like lots of Big Cherry, it’s being used as a personal playground already and we have no way to monitor it.”
Lawson continued, “Everyone that is worried about erosion and things that could happen, it’s already happening.”
Lawson stated that this project will allow the town to have some control over what is happening.
Another part of the land use agreement with Spearhead Trails includes a parking lot that can be used for trailers and boats. The future parking area is a large flat area that was cleared during the construction of the dam.
“As far as Spearhead, it’s this parking lot and the existing road, that’s it,” said Lawson. “They already have a grant for it. This parking lot is going somewhere, and we see multiple reasons that we need it here on Big Cherry”
Lawson stated that there are areas near Big Cherry that rival the beauty of the Devil’s Bathtub. “We are going to protect those places, but I don’t think they are private places that only land owners that are close by or people that already know how to get to it should be able to access.”
Overall, council was receptive to the concerns and residents appeared to be more at ease.
“I, for one, feel a whole lot better about what you have said and what’s happening,” said Harris.
Council member Robert Bloomer held up a photo given to him by Malle. “This is unacceptable,” said Bloomer. “We will do our best to make sure nothing like this happens on our land.”
No Spearhead Trails representatives spoke during the discussion.
According to Lawson, Spearhead Trails must obtain state Department of Environmental Quality permits before work can begin.