Wise County considers easement for Heart of Appalachia Trail

Stephen Igo • Apr 12, 2007 at 12:45 PM

WISE - The Wise County Board of Supervisors today will consider accepting a trail easement offer by private property owners near St. Paul to facilitate an improved Heart of Appalachia Trail between Carfax and Bangor.

The easement encompasses the old Bangor Road and connects to a network of hiking trails within the Clinch Ranger District of the Jefferson National Forest.

Terms of the easement offer by Jeffrey Wayne Mullins and Mary Blevins Mullins, husband and wife who are the sole heirs of the property from the late Lonnie Blevins, were prepared by Saint Paul attorney Frank Kilgore.

Kilgore has been active for many years in trail and tourism development and a range of other environmentally focused concerns in Wise County and the region.

Wise County wants to use the property to reroute the Heart of Appalachia Trail between Carfax and Bangor for a walking and mountain biking trail for public use and enjoyment. The county would maintain and continue the existing foot and non-motorized trail on the property in its present location, dimension, size and shape, including the right to temporarily use an additional five feet to each side of the existing trail for temporary repair or maintenance needs.

The easement would not exceed 15 feet in width through the property, and the county would be permitted to authorize volunteers, community groups and trail clubs to maintain the trail as arranged with county authorities.

The county would also agree to indemnify the landowners from all liability, waste, costs, expenses and claims that might arise from public use and maintenance of the trail easement. The terms of the agreement include a provision that the landowners invoke all applicable state statutes to provide full immunity from liability for any injuries or damages resulting from the public use of the easement.

The easement will not permit public use on the trail of motorized vehicles, horses, overnight camping, campfires, hunting, tree and plant removal, or any other use not specified by the agreement. Basically, the public will be invited to hike or bike the property within the confines of the trail.

The county will have the right to erect signs at the entrance and exit of the trail to direct foot and bicycle traffic. The landowners will retain legal rights regarding the remaining property through civil or criminal complaints without impeding the county's right or obligation to do so.

Wise County Attorney Karen Mullins on Tuesday said the pact is similar to other easements secured for other portions of the trail. Formerly referred to as the Sugar Loop Trail, she said this particular section is "the final piece of the puzzle" to the Heart of Appalachia Trail regarding easements.

Court orders several years ago permitted temporary public use of the trail until the Lonnie Blevins estate could be ironed out, she said. "The reason we are just now asking the board to approve this section of it is the (easement) agreement was approved just a few weeks ago," Mullins said. "We've just been sitting there waiting to see if they could get that all resolved."

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