CENTRE – New Cherokee County Parks and Recreation Board (PRU) member David Crum has only attended three meetings since his appointment earlier this year. But he already
has a clear vision of what he believes Cherokee Rock Village should look like a few months from now.
Crum, a Maine native who moved to Cherokee County in 2006, has been the director at the county’s Historical Museum for the past four years. He took a seat on the PRB after a another member resigned late last year.
Crum said the PRB has made headway at Cherokee Rock Village, which sits atop Lookout Mountain near Leesburg, since the organization was refocused about three years ago.
“They’ve made quite a bit of progress,” Crum said. “They’ve put water up there, and electricity. Those were major undertakings.”
Crum said he knows there’s still a lot of anxiety in the community about the PRB’s 2012 decision to allow a Texas-based company to place a 400-foot-tall wind turbine in the park.
“Pioneer Green gave the Park Board an option to withdraw from that agreement,” said Crum. “The Board already did that, so at this point in time there will be no wind turbine in the park.”
Crum said he realizes there is a public perception that improvements at Cherokee Rock Village have been slow in coming, of late. But he said the lack of visual progress doesn’t mean long-term plans aren’t advancing.
“They had to get funding, bonding, for all the water and the electrical to be installed, and six miles of roads for future improvements, such as remote camping, have been purchased,” Crum said. “All of that has been going on and those were all good acquisitions.”
Crum said that with that infrastructure in place, he felt the need to sit down and comprise a list of steps to ensure continued progress at the park.
“Hopefully all of these goals will culminate in a formal opening, in terms of charging permit fees, on Aug. 1,” Crum said. “The first thing that has to happen is we have to finish the road. We’re looking at bids on that right now.”
Crum said other steps in the sequence that lead to the Aug. 1 open date for Cherokee Rock Village include establishing a complete set of rules for park operation, installing signage for traffic flow and general information purposes, and finalizing security and on-site management policies.
“There will be an attendant, at least during daylight hours, at the cabin that has been built at the entrance,” Crum said. “There may be a camp host who lives on the site 24 hours a day, and we’re seeking someone to do that now.”
Crum said he also envisions construction of an amphitheater for lectures, concerts, etc. A new website, still in development, is already up and running (www. ccparkboard.com).
Crum said he feels on accommodation should be to allow a free-access period, of perhaps two hours, for anyone who simply wants to enter the park and enjoy the view.
“There’s a long-established pattern of people who drive up, take in the scenery, and then leave,” Crum said. “That is a tradition that has been going on forever up there. My proposal is that we only charge people who want to be in the park for longer, to climb or camp or whatever.”
Regarding that fee, Crum said there is a debate going on among he and the other Board members about exactly how it should be levied.
“Some of the members have said they want to charge four dollars per person to enter the park,” Crum said. “I think that fee is way too high; I think we should only charge by the vehicle, maybe two dollars.”
Crum said he believes the smaller fee, combined with additional nominal fees for permission to climb or camp, will still generate more than enough money to pay for the park’s estimated annual security budget.
Crum said he doesn’t believe the outdoor adventurers who already come to Cherokee Rock Village on a regular basis will mind paying a few extra dollars.
“The people who come here to climb and camp are used to paying fees at every other place they go, except here,” Crum said.
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