Website urges residents support opening Bridgestone for hiking, kayaking and caving

By | March 31, 2016 6:38 am

The Caney Fork River, which runs though Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area, is a popular attraction for nature and outdoors enthusiasts. (PHOTO BY Chuck Sutherland)

The Bridgestone/Firestone gift of 10,000-acre Centennial Wilderness Area in Scott’s Gulf abounds with a number of waterfalls, a 26 mile hiking trail, bluffs overlooking the Caney Fork River Gorge and nine primitive backpacking campgrounds.

But the property is closed to everyone, except hunters, from September through December of each year, a crucial time for tourists seeking spectacular fall foliage views.

According to Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce President Marvin Bullock, “This is adversely affecting the economic development of White County.”

Bullock has created a website, roomforboth.com to draw attention to and educate residents of White County, as well as nature lovers, about the annual closure that has been put in place by Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency so that hunters have exclusive use of the land during these months.

When the property was given to the state by Bridgestone/Firestone, the deed restrictions state that the land was to be preserved in its natural state, and used by the public for hunting, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities.

According to Bullock, if the property is closed to the public during three months of the year by TWRA, it is not being used as intended.

A sign sits outside the property that reads “Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Federal Aid Project funded by your purchase of hunting equipment.

Bullock says this is a misrepresentation of the property. “TWRA alludes that their properties were purchased via their fees for hunting licenses and therefore they contend that gives them the jurisdiction to close the properties to any activity other than hunting. The truth is, Bridgestone was a gift to the State of Tennessee by Bridgestone Corporation. Many of the adjoining properties were partially paid for by the Heritage Trust Fund. The Heritage Trust Fund is financed by the taxpayer.”

Bullock is emphatic that he is not anti-hunting, which is why he proclaims, “There is room for both.”

The problem, he contends, is the growth of trails that is stunted without yearlong use of the land.

“The Friends of the Mid-Cumberland would like to put a loop trail from Lost Creek, near Sparta, to Fall Creek Falls. This will require passing through the Bridgestone gift and adjoining state-owned properties. When complete this trail will be over 60 miles long. It will likely have more waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and caves per mile than any other trail in the southeast and quite likely the United States. The state now owns enough contiguous land to make this possible, some managed by the Tennessee Department of Conservation (parks), but a much larger portion managed by TWRA. The Boy Scout trail, and the Mid-Cumberland Trail can run in conjunction for a good portion of the distance,” he explains.

“When asked about the logic in this closure, people are told that it would be dangerous to have hunters and hikers in the woods at the same time. If this is true, would you not want to limit the hunting to only one hunter? With two hunters, one might shoot the other. Why are hikers not just as capable of deciding that they will be in the woods during hunting season, as are hunters?”

According to Bullock, there has never been an incident in Tennessee in which a hunter has shot a hiker.

“Besides that, even if all of the hunters show up on the same day, they have over 100 acres each to hunt, one might still hike through the woods and never see a hunter. Using Bridgestone’s description, with a 1000′ buffer, the hunters would still have vast tracts of flat land to hunt exclusively, and the hikers, kayakers, birdwatchers, etc would have access to some pristine acres to enjoy their activities too. There is ample room for both.”

Bullock says progress has been made in opening all of Scott’s Gulf year round. Welch’s point is now open 365 days per year, and the road to the Caney Fork is now open year-round for kayakers to pull their boats out of the water.

Besides the loss of tax revenue from tourists in the months when the fall colors are vibrant and the temperature is still comfortable, Bullock says it could also be a loss of new business.

“People ‘relocate where they recreate.’ In the past seven months two businesses have relocated to White County because the owners like our outdoor opportunities. One of our largest employers says that he realizes that he has many over-qualified workers who have moved to the area to enjoy the outdoors. Several businesses have moved to the Cumberlands for the whitewater and hiking.”

Additionally, Bullock says figures show that deer hunting has continued to decrease since the opening of the Bridgestone WMA in 2004.

Bullock asks that residents visit the website, roomforboth.com, follow the link to contact their local legislator, and ask that they open the area year round to hikers, cavers and kayakers to enjoy.

 

comments » 58

  1. Comment by Charlie Floyd

    March 31, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Just curious about some of the statements in this article, one being is there real supporting data to prove the great demand for hiking in this area during the hunting season? ALso if hikers and others are allowed in the woods during hunting season should they also be required to wear blaze orange as hunters are required to do? I am not against the idea but feel that the Chamber and the area might be better served by developing put-in and camping spots along the Calfkiller River (and other rivers in the county as appropriate) for canoe and kayak paddlers and fisherpersons??

  2. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Good question Charlie. Drive those roads yourself during hunting season. One Sunday this year during hunting season, I drove the roads which also pass Virgin Falls (park). There were a total of 16 cars with 14 of them in the Virgin Falls parking lot; in-other-words, there were a couple of people hunting on 16,000 acres and at least 14 hiking on a the much-smaller 1,300 acre Virgin Falls Trail.

    Some Saturdays, I’ve counted over 70 cars in the Virgin Falls parking lot. Most hikers travel in groups, which implies on those days; over twice as many people are hiking the Virgin Falls Trail as hunt the surrounding Wildlife Management Area year-round. The Virgin Falls Trail is 4.8 miles; imagine if we had over 60 miles with similar waterfalls, caves and scenic overlooks.

    If you want to see the impact this kind of trail can have, visit Damascus Virginia – – though ours will be much much better.

    Lastly, we are producing a map with blueways (kayak access points) for both the Calfkiller and Caney Fork. We have a new launch in the works for the lower Caney which is a beautiful 5-hour paddle to Plum Lee Ford. I hope you get to enjoy them all.

  3. Comment by Jimmy Moss

    March 31, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Why try to legislate changes to rules that are in place when all you have to do is follow rules like buying licenses and permits like hunters have to do to support TWRA who pays for everything that is done at Bridgestone. It is a WMA supported by hunters. Hikers, bird watchers and all nature lovers should be proud to support it as much as I do. I pay for licenses and permit every year and have hunted it less than a dozen times since it has been open but I love to have the privilege to hike or hunt it when possible.

  4. Comment by Brian Buchanan

    March 31, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Would one be able to legally ‘hike’ the trails during the three month closure if only they purchased and carried a valid hunting license?

  5. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Jimmy Moss, if you read RoomForBoth.com, you will discover that it is not paid for solely by the hunters. Tennesseans add a lot to that budget. Furthermore, those who have offered to purchase licenses so that they could use the land as well have been told that if they are not actively hunting, they will be ticketed. The same is true at Catoosa; even if you pay for a sportsman license and a WMA-specific permit it is only open to hunters and others are denied access. When you hike on Corp of Engineers property and some state parks during hunting season, you will encounter hunters. If it is that “dangerous” why does TWRA allow their hunters in those locations.

    If not prone to read the website, watch the following link. Many of these issues were brought up at a Senate Committee earlier this year. http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=302&clip_id=11354

  6. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    March 31, 2016 at 11:31 am

    If Mr. Bullock truly believes that there is “room for both” as he claims, then he would be just as appalled about the fact that there is NO hunting EVER on the adjoining Virgin Falls area. But that doesn’t bother him at all because he doesn’t care what the hunters have access to. Only the hikers!

  7. Comment by Jennie Ivey

    March 31, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    There is, indeed, plenty of room for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts year round in the Bridgestone Centennial Wilderness. Ten thousand acres is a lot of land, folks! Don’t rob hikers, campers, kayakers and fall foliage seekers of the most spectacular time of the year by closing this awesome place to everyone but hunters. Please oh please.

  8. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    March 31, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Are you okay with the fact that most state parks have areas that hunters can not use? According to the logic being used in this argument…..if there is plenty of room for both, shouldn’t there be plenty of room for hunters on state park property??? That is also funded by taxpayer dollars and not all taxpayers can use it. The logic behind this argument only makes sense if you support open access for ALL outdoor enthusiasts at ALL state operated lands!!

  9. Comment by Fount Bertram

    March 31, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Fact: Most of the hiking trails in the Bridgestone/Firestone preserve were built by volunteer efforts of hikers. Namely the Tennessee Trails Association led by Ross and Brenda Cardwell. The Cardwells received the Tennessee Trails Association award for their efforts. The hunters are using the trials we built for public hiking to get back to the areas they hunt. These trails should be open for use by the people that built them and the general public. I had asked pointedly why the area was closed during hunting season and was told that “hikers scare the game away from the hunters”…Yikes! Does that mean the hunters aren’t sufficiently motivated to get off the hiking trails in search of game? Nothing like having it come right to you on an established trail. The idea that the land is solely supported by the sale of hunting licenses is pure nonsense!

  10. Comment by Rachael Robinson

    March 31, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I am not a hunter but have ridden in areas where there are hunters on rare occasion. As a member of the Backcountry Horsemen of East Tennessee, we worked with the US Forest Service to open, maintain and service trails that were used by horseback riders, hikers and bikers as well as trailhead development. It worked. These properties, if I read the statement correctly, were meant to be open to the public and not limited to hunters. Possibly TWRA maintains but from where do they acquire their funds….the taxpayers. Open to all is my plea.

  11. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Amanda, actually Virgin Falls is managed from Fall Creek Falls and much of Fall Creek Falls is open to hunting as well. Also, TWRA controls over twice as much land as state parks. In the case of Bridgestone, The Mid Cumberland Trail will take 68 acres out of the 16,000 to build. Of Catoosa’s 82,000 acres, opening less than 2000 acres will assure kayakers and Cumberland Trail hikers that their sport it viable as well. Please read the RoomForBoth.com website as many of your arguments have been encountered and explained already.

  12. Comment by Matt

    March 31, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I am a hunter. I’m not against hiking, kayaking etc. in the least bit BUT the hikers get 9 months and the hunters get 3 months. Now the hikers want more? Also as someone stated above if your going to open the entire WMA year round to hikers then let the hunters hunt the virgin falls area, the FCF golf course, and so on.

  13. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Matt, originally the people of Sparta were told that TWRA would manage the land but it would be closed for two weeks for gun season. Now it is closed for over three months. When are we supposed to cry foul; when they decide to close it all year?

    Over 20 years ago, when White County supported the transfer of the land, the expectation was that it would become a multi-use recreation area and the county would regain revenue from the land via hikers, kayakers, cavers, climbers, hunters, etc. Fall into winter are the most popular times for hiking. Winter rains are bring the supreme time for kayaking. Either go to the White County Courthouse, or download the restrictions for the property via RoomForBoth.com and read the various outdoor activities that the Benefactor describes in the restrictions. Also note that 90% of the hiking, and 100% of the kayaking and caving take place in that canyon. How many hunters do you think hunt below that bluff line?

    This is not about stopping hunting. It is about sharing the land with the other activities that are described in the restrictions filed in the White County Courthouse. If you don’t understand what major trail attractions can do for a community, visit Damascus Virginia. The town thrives on a 31 mile trail. Ours will be over 60 miles with more scenic overlooks, caves and waterfalls per mile of trail than virtually anywhere else in the US.

    Next year, I hope to see us all out there; hunters included.

  14. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    March 31, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    So do you hope to see hikers AND hunters at the state parks next year as well?

  15. Comment by Laura Wallace

    March 31, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    I would like to see it open for horse/trail riding. The eqestrians are limited in our area.

  16. Comment by Brandon

    March 31, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    I have hiked, mountain biked, and horseback ridden in various parts of the country in which everyone was allowed to share the trails, and did so just fine. We shared a lot of areas with hunters without any problems on either side. There’s no reason why it can’t happen here also. And considering the original agreement of two weeks out of the year was wrongly replaced with months out of the year, I don’t see that there’s much of an argument worth standing on. Instead it seems more like a fight to keep what was illegally taken in the first place. Obviously not by the hunters themselves, but in the name of the hunters. My only other gripe out here is that with all the land and parks it is still the most horse unfriendly state I’ve ever seen. I’ve been in states where there wasn’t hardly a place that you were not allowed to ride. Then we moved here and can’t hardly ride anywhere other than the roads. Horses seem to be the least welcome of all. I’d bet the same for mountain bikers too. It should be a lot more open than it is for all. It works in other states just fine as I can personally contest, and it can work here too.

  17. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    One person states that if they are going to allow hikers in Wildlife Management Areas, then shouldn’t they allow hunters to hunt the Fall Creek Falls Golf Course, Another asks if I hope to see hunter’s in state parks next year.

    First, they do hunt on the Fall Creek Falls Golf Course; it’s called the Wounded Warriors Program. And I encounter hunters when I’m hiking on Corp of Engineers property and some state parks – – so that would not bother me a bit.

  18. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    March 31, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Why don’t you tell the WHOLE truth of the matter which is that the Wounded Warriors only include about 15 individuals that only hunt a few days a year (with the assistance of the “evil” TWRA!!). The parks are closed to regular rifle or muzzleloader hunting which is what most hunters use. I have yet to hear you say that you are going to champion for the hunters’ right to hunt at Virgin Falls or any other state park! If you truly felt there was “room for both” then you would be speaking to the Senate about hunters rights as well! The inconsistencies in your logic are astounding and I hope the people of White County wake-up before you build a 68 acre trail that no one can afford to visit because we have empty factories and no jobs for them!

  19. Comment by Matt

    March 31, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Like I said I’m not against hiking at all. I have actually hiked before and enjoyed it and I see what your saying but I think being able to hike 9 out of 12 months is more than fair and actually leaned more towards the people that hike.

    Some of the best hunting is below the bluff because people rarely go down there ( atleast during hunting season). I totally understand it would be good for the community . But for anyone hunting near the trails it could ruin the hunt if people walk by. You said you walked by a hunter once and it didn’t bother you, well I’ll bet it bothered him. And think about people that can’t afford to pay money for expensive leases and that have no access to private land to hunt. This may be the only place they have to go. They get up at 4:00 am, travel however far to bridgestone, walk however far to the hunting spot that they have scouted and picked out, from 7:00 am on they see people walk by every 20 minutes. Now the only spot they had to hunt is a bust.

    I don’t want to stop hiking or other activities but I think it’s more than fair right now. I totally respect your view on this but I have to disagree with it.

    Thanks

  20. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    March 31, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Amanda, I will let you champion the cause of getting hunters into Virgin Falls; right now I’m busy trying to rectify TWRA going from closing the area for two weeks to now over three months per year. When should we cry foul, when they decide to close it all year? Not to mention the misleading signs that they have erected over the years that have even frightened away tourists going to Virgin Falls.

    Actually, part of Fall Creek Falls is open to gun hunters too. Compare the lands that TWRA boasts (link below) to that of TDEC and you will see that the hiker is already at quite a disadvantage.

    Lastly, this is not a hunter/hiker issue. This is an economic development issue. The thousands of people who come to hike, kayak and cave spend money with the local businesses. The 83 people who take deer off Bridgestone a year don’t significantly impact the local economy. Spend a weekend in Damascus Virginia and you will see how a trail can become an economy.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/chucksutherland/25555750263/sizes/l

  21. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    April 1, 2016 at 6:45 am

    PS The previous paragraph should read. Lastly, this is not JUST a hunter/hiker issue, OR an economic development issue. It is a RoomForBoth issue. . . .

  22. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 1, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Again, you have misrepresented the facts. Hiking is NOT closed for over 3 months a year. It is closed for 69 days a year….a little over TWO months. Big difference there and you have continually distorted the facts to fit your agenda. And as a resident of White County, I do not believe you are going to spur the economy in White County by simply building more hiking trails/opportunities. You sir, have put all your eggs in one basket instead of lobbying for a variety of ways to boost the economy, you are only interested in helping the hikers because that is what YOU enjoy. I have said it before and I say it again…..if this is truly a “RoomForBoth” issue, then you would be just as upset about what lands the hunters have been denied access to.

  23. Comment by Matt

    April 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    ^^^^^ what amanda said

  24. Comment by David broyles

    April 1, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    It sounds to me like this is just an example of someone using their position to try to influence an outcome to support their personal wishes. It is a real stretch for any one to believe this is an economic issue. I only hope the head of our Chamber is not spending time on this senseless issue on the Chamber time. This might be part of the reason our Chamber has the reputation it has.

  25. Comment by Brandon

    April 1, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    I can personally vouch for our Chamber president in that whatever the reputation was with the Chamber, it is far from that today. This Chamber has quickly grown into some amazing stuff since it’s turnover last year. And knowing Marvin, he doesn’t restrict his efforts to working hours. He’s extremely dedicated, passionate, and knowledgable in all he does and gives more time and energy that I ever could, and probably more than most of you complaining. I suggest taking the time to either fully read what is put out or schedule a time to sit down with him in person with an open mind. As for me, I think that regardless of all else, if the agreement was 2 weeks out of the year, then that’s what it should be. If the agreement was violated and the tax payers are the ones providing much of the funding, then what leg is there to stand on? I really don’t understand the negativity about this.

  26. Comment by Matt

    April 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    (example) I am a taxpaying hunter, and you are a taxpaying hiker. You can use the land 9 months and I can use the land 3 months. Now you want the entire year. And you don’t see where the negativity is coming from?

  27. Comment by David broyles

    April 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Not negative. Just an option. Mine differs from yours. I think TWRA does a great job and part of that is protecting everyone whether they think they need it or not. Hikers that want to be in the woods with someone hunting with a rifle is what I would consider a special kind of stupid. And anyone using the arguement that this issue is economic is not someone I would charge with growing industry. People in certain positions need to think before they leap.

  28. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Excellent points David! And I might add that saying there are no instances of hikers being shot by hunters is also untrue! I am attaching a link to an article about a young hiker who was shot by a hunter in Overton County. The only reason this has not happened at Bridgestone is because they have never had hunting and hiking at the same time in the same location. I also take extreme issue with the fact that my land taxes are being used to pay a man who wants to strip me of my right to hunt on land without the dangers of hikers walking through my area. I am extremely disappointed in our state and local leaders who support this ridiculous notion! They need to be contacted immediately!!!

    http://www.overtoncountynews.com/archives2004/news12-22-2004.html

  29. Comment by Margaret

    April 1, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    I’m not sure about the 2016 schedule, but for the last several years, TWRA has closed Bridgestone in September and reopened in January. There may be a few days during that three months that the WMA reopens, but a schedule that broken cannot be promoted for any other form of tourism; it is effectively closed for everything but hunting for over three months.

    Just like the signs that have been misleading tourists for years; that process must end.

  30. Comment by Billy Anderson

    April 1, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    Seems to me this is an overreach of power. We see this constantly from liberals who always want and think they expect a little more. I just wonder how much “contributions” from certain outdoor factors Mr bullock will profit from? 69 days a year is all we get to hunt! That’s it! What is gonna happen is someone is gonna get shot and all the sudden hunters are evil when in fact the ones wanting to hike during hunting seasons are to blame. Makes a lot of sense to open it up to hikers when hunters are in the woods. Your agenda is clear Mr bullock, Mr Bailey and Mr Robinson! I just hope you think about others instead of thinking with your billfolds! Corrupt government at work!

  31. Comment by Kirk Selby

    April 1, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    How is there even an argument being made from an economic stand point, as an avid hunter I paid $166 for a sportsman license to souly hunt Bridgestone as I have for the past 3 years, to hunt less than 3 months ( read the hunting/fishing guide and see how short the season are up there), how much does one pay to hike and kayak, considering I do those also I’m going with, other the personal preference items $0. With all that being said I believe pissing off your high paying hunters by letting hikers tromp through the woods while trying to enjoy the peace and quiet, sound of nature, and hoping to see the buck of a lifetime or the source to food on the table is nothing more than a piss poor decision from an economic stand point!

  32. Comment by Lew

    April 1, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Is this the same chamber member that wants to build a bridge across the calf killer to a cemetery to help increase tourism? And yes a special kind of stupid are poeple who want to hike with Hunters in the woods.

  33. Comment by Jennie Ivey

    April 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    The solution doesn’t seem all that difficult. Let hunters have exclusive access to the Bridgestone land for the originally agreed upon two weeks. During the rest of hunting season, hikers should have the good sense to wear blaze orange and stay on the trail. And for heaven’s sake, people, stop the unfounded and vitriolic accusations against the Chamber president. If you don’t believe that year-round outdoor recreational opportunities stimulate economic growth, you haven’t done your homework.

  34. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 2, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I want to see the ORIGINAL documentation of this alleged two week agreement. Not some type-written transcript with Mr. Bullock’s interpretation….the original document.

  35. Comment by Trumpie

    April 3, 2016 at 2:48 am

    HUNTERS – 3 months

    HIKERS – 9 months

    Sounds fair to me, leave it like it is. It’s worked out well for twelve years.
    Some people have nothing better to do than set around & dream up ideas to make matters worse.

  36. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 3, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I have read that entire 24 page document on the room for both website and I can not find ANYTHING about this alleged two week agreement. It simply says that it must be used for hunting, hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. And it is being used for those things!!! Hunters get 69 days (not 3 months!) and hikers get 296 days. Sounds more than fair to me!

  37. Comment by Jennie Ivey

    April 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Though I’m reluctant to prolong a disagreement in which neither side seems inclined to change its mind, I can’t help but point out a fallacy in Amanda Stockton’s argument. Hunters have access to the Bridgestone land every day of the year, 69 of those days exclusively. That tilts the scales considerably. Hunters: 365/ Everyone else: 296.
    Just sayin.’

  38. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Hunters buy their licenses for the 69 days of use. Hikers pay nothing. Using land for 296 days a year for free sounds like a great deal to me! Just sayin!

  39. Comment by Trumpie

    April 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Hunters SHOULD have access to the land 365 days of the year. This might compensate for some of the $135 license they have to have. (The majority of the hunters are not considered hikers; they hike as they hunt.)
    Do the hikers have to have a license of any kind? Maybe this should be looked into.

  40. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    April 3, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Amanda,

    I understand that you are married to Paul Stockton who works for TWRA, and I hear that he does lots of good work; and I also understand why you feel the need to defend the status quo.

    I am in the position that I have to defend the best interest of this county. I drove out to Bridgestone on Saturday and counted 75 cars that were there for hiking. Of the three cars that I was following on Scott’s Gulf Road, two had four passengers and one had three which implies that there were about three times more people hiking ON THAT DAY ALONE than hunt Bridgestone during ALL of those “69 days” – – just in one day.

    Of the parked cars, there were 6 states, and 18 Tennessee counties represented and I am proud to say that six of them were from White County. The Virgin Falls Trail is being loved to death; all the more reason that we need more access points, like from Lost Creek and even Fall Creek Falls.

    For the comments alluding that hikers and hunters can’t coexist; if it’s that dangerous, you would only be able to open the area to one hunter because if you put two hunters out there, they might shoot each other? I hike Corp of Engineers property that is open to both hiking and hunting and never had a problem. Some state parks are open to both, and I’ve never had a problem at those parks either. The FACT is, there has never been a SINGLE case in the state of Tennessee where a hunter has shot a hiker – – look it up.

    I attribute that safety record partially to good hunter safety programs that can be credited to TWRA. But probably the greatest reasons are 1. Most hikers are waiting for it to warm up before they hit the trail – – they are not entering the woods until the hunters have left. 2. The trails that are most sought (like Virgin Falls) are in terrain that most hunters avoid because they don’t want to carry a carcass up that steep terrain – – in-other-words the hikers and hunters rarely see each other.

    And, if it is really that dangerous to have more than one activity, why would TWRA allow hunters on Corp property or state parks where hiking is taking place?

    As to the assertions that hikers just need to purchase WMA stamps; I can introduce you to people who have done so only to be chased away from WMAs because they were not hunting. That policy is not only at Bridgestone; we are getting similar reports from across the state. Therefore hunters are the only ones who have 365 day access; other citizens do not – – even if they pay the price – – what’s fair about that?

    I regret that we can’t post pictures in these comments, but I plan to update RoomForBoth soon with a couple of proposals; one of them extracted from the Bridgestone restrictions complete with a map that will still leave thousands and thousands of acres EXCLUSIVE to hunters if they wish.

    Traffic is opportunity for this county. I want to keep the hunters there as well. I would be willing to bet that many of these tourists also hunt and as we attract more tourists to our trails – – hunting will increase also. I really don’t enjoy taking flak, but I have to work toward a solution that is best for our ENTIRE community. I hope that you, and the others will at least consider the possibilities with an open, un-biased mind. All of us want to see White County grow and thrive, this is one of the many aspects that I am working on – – but it is one of the big ones.

    marv

  41. Comment by Billy Anderson

    April 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    It’s clear that there is an agenda to uplift ones who here. Ultimetly Him Bledsoe will have the final say in this and guess what? He was unaware of the situation. He’s aware now. Me bullock, as far as hunting goes, do you hunt? Are you up there everyday to see how many hunters hunt? You say that deer numbers have declined. Have you thought that maybe hunters are passing on deer to wait on a trophy, which is why most go to Bridgestone. The Turkey hunting is also great. To have someone come stomping through the woods during hunting season is a stupid idea! You see hikers don’t care that there is a hunter around. Hunters respect each other’s space and don’t intrude. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against anybody having access, just not during certain times. Our wardens and TWRA do a fantastic job at managing and taking care of the place. I do not think this deal will ever go through and rightfully so it shouldn’t.

  42. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 3, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Mr. Bullock,

    I want to know how you know all of those cars were there for hiking? Did you question the occupants of each car? The truth is you have no way of knowing what the individuals in those cars were doing. You have just assumed that is what they were doing and presented your assumption as fact.

    As for your assertion that no hikers have ever been shot by a hunter….I did look it up. Here is the link to an article about a hiker being shot by a hunter. http://www.overtoncountynews.com/archives2004/news12-22-2004.html
    The reason it is less dangerous for hunters to co-exist is two-fold: For one, hunters are required to wear blaze orange and hikers are not. Second, hunters are not moving around through the woods unless they are entering or exiting. Much less likely to get shot than a hiker.

    I thought long and hard before continuing this dialog, because none of us plan on changing our minds. But some of the things you have said are simply not true and I just couldn’t leave those comments unaddressed. I think the public should know the truth from both sides. This article doesn’t tell both sides.
    Respectfully,
    Amanda Stockton

  43. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    April 4, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Regarding the first question, I am at a loss for words but I will do my best. The 20+ individuals that I personally saw either going or coming had backpacks and/or hiking sticks. They could have been headed-out shopping; but they were going to have to hike a ways to get to a store. : )

    Regarding the second assertion about the person who was shot; there was also an incidence where a boater was shot during hunting season, I don’t see how one could draw the conclusion that someone on a boat, wondering through the woods near their house, or standing in their yard was hiking along a defined trail where both parties know to be wary. By the way, I don’t object to the blaze-orange requirement for everyone; I want to keep that perfect record.

  44. Comment by Amanda Stockton

    April 4, 2016 at 10:42 am

    I was simply pointing out that you are mistaken when you continually say that there hasn’t been a single incident where a hiker has been shot by a hunter. You have said that repeatedly and are using it to push your agenda. It is not true and I wanted to put the truth out there.

  45. Comment by Trumpie

    April 4, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Can somebody point me in the direction of this “two weeks” for the hunters? Where is this written? I’ve looked for it but so far haven’t found it.

  46. Comment by Richard Harris

    April 5, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Our hiking club based in the Cleveland TN area take hikes in the area and hate the fact that the area is closed during hunting season. This makes no sense. The Cherokee National Forest is heavily hunted and there are no trail closures to hikers. Why should this be different in the Bridgestone area? By closing the areas to hikers 3 months of the year, your area is losing out on significant visitor income.

  47. Comment by Mike West

    April 5, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Due to a conflict of interest, I can’t place my stance on this issue but I am commenting to increase awareness.

  48. Comment by Trumpie

    April 5, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    (Richard Harris) There is 650,000 acres in Cherokee National Forrest; there is 10,000 acres in Bridgestone Wilderness.
    Might this not have something to do with Cherokee being open to all activities at the same time?

  49. Comment by Mia Hiker

    April 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Mr. Bullock seems very upset that the Boy Scouts are not allowed to build a trail from their private property to Virgin Falls through Bridgestone WMA. I would like to know how many trails from private property to Virgin Falls should be allowed in the opinion of either Mr. Bullock speaking as an individual, Mr. Bullock speaking as the director of the Sparta Chamber of Commerce, or the position of the group that wants to build the Mid-Cumberland Wilderness Trail. Is the declaration that the property was purchased with the intent to build a trail to Virgin Falls sufficient to get support for building the private trail? If that is not sufficient reason then I would ask that Mr. Bullock publish in the local newspaper a list of the criteria that a group must meet in order to be entitled to build a trail from their privately owned property to Virgin Falls. Is Virgin Falls the only allowed destination for a private trail or would Mr. Bullock support building a trail to some other sites as well? Suppose that I form a non-profit group called Girls Who Love Weird Rocks. Let’s just call it GWLWR. Can GWLWR build as many trails as it wants to as many weird rocks as It wants? If the Boy Scouts were/are allowed to build a trail from their private property to the destination of their choice would it not be discrimination and thus the basis for a lawsuit if the same privilege was denied to GWLWR? I understand that in 2009 then Congressman Lincoln Davis requested $2,750,000 to build this proposed trail from the Federal government. That was not granted, apparently the trail was not considered enough of an economic stimulus to be included in the Stimulus Package. But suppose any kind of public taxpayer dollars are used to build the Mid-Cumberland Trail through the Boy Scout property giving them private access to the trail, would it be discriminatory to refuse to route the trail through property belonging to GWLWR? Or please publish in the local newspaper the requirements and application process for having the publicly funded trail routed through a parcel of private property.

  50. Comment by Mia Hiker

    April 6, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    It is surprising that hunters are not up-in-arms about Mr Bullock’s position on the availability of public land vs private land for hunting. It seems valid to assume that Mr. Bullock is calling TWRA managed WMAs by the name of ‘state-owned hunting refuges’ when he says on his website “Is the establishment of these state-owned hunting refuges responsible for the loss of income from the private landowners who are experiencing a waning in their income from hunting clubs on privately owned tracts?” While my transcription skills may not be 100% accurate, Mr Bullock says in a presentation before the Tennessee Senate Committee on Energy, Ag, and Natural Resources that people have told him that hunters want a pristine experience when hunting without being interrupted by hikers. Mr. Bullock’s further comment is “Fine. Let’em do what I did, buy a bunch of land. They can build a wall around it if they want to; they can be the only hunter in there. Or they can pay $4.50 per acre per year to a large land owner like the Cunninghams to join a private hunting club.” These remarks, as well as his antagonistic tone of voice, an be heard after minute 18 on the video of Mr. Bullock’s presentation to the above referenced committee. So while Mr. Bullock says he is not anti-hunting it seems clear that he is actually anti-public land/no fee hunting. If you want an uninterrupted hunting experience then in Mr. Bullock’s opinion you need to be wealthy enough to buy a 150 acre farm like him or pay the Cunninghams for the privilege of hunting. How dare TWRA seek to provide hunting opportunities to middle class and poor hunters who cannot afford to buy that land or pay those private fees in addition to buying gear, ammo, and licenses, when the wealthy and politically connected want to hike. Maybe we should just tell Mr. Bullock to go hike on his own 150 acre property or pay the Cunninghams or other large land owners to hike on their property. Or he could simply go hike on other public property at Cumberland Mountain, Fall Creek Falls, Savage Gulf, or Standing Stone state parks.

  51. Comment by Marcia Donovan

    April 10, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Scott’s Gulf was secured for public use, and I am dismayed that the land has been turned over to TWRA to exclude access by the general public. The general public must have access to Scott’s Bluff.

  52. Comment by billy anderson

    April 11, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Ummmmmm Marcia it is open to the public for over 9 months out of the year. And you should be thankful that T.W.R.A. has taken care of it and helps preserve it. Please don’t be a puppet to Mr Bullock.

  53. Comment by Marvin Bullock

    April 11, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Billy Anderson, I don’t know Ms Donovan.

    Granny always said “the first person to cackle, laid the egg”. So Who are you a puppet for?

    By the way, congratulations on the turkey.

  54. Comment by billy anderson

    April 12, 2016 at 1:06 am

    Not a puppet Mr bullock, just a hunter who enjoys the peace and quiet while hunting.

  55. Comment by Mia Hiker

    April 13, 2016 at 5:42 am

    Marcia, the land has always been under the control of TWRA and there has always been a closed hunting season since Bridgestone gave it to the state. The agreement actually says the public has no right of entry except as granted by the state. Nothing has changed about control of the property. It was a TWRA official who actually signed the Bridgestone agreement. Mr Bullock is trying to fool you into thinking you are being denied a right you never had.

  56. Comment by billy anderson

    April 13, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Exactly 100% correct!^^^^^

  57. Comment by David broyles

    April 23, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Businesses in Sparta are closing daily. Empty building are everywhere The chamber president chooses to spend time on a hiking issue versus the things that might make a difference. Maybe we need a new chamber president that is not wearing hiking boots and a back pack on.

  58. Comment by Mia Hiker

    April 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Maybe the problem is not being a hiker, but being part of the original Scotts Gulf Federation and thus believing that Members of SGF are entitled to tell TWRA how to run Bridgestone WMA.


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