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Norton OKs agreement with Forest Service

Mike Still • Apr 20, 2019 at 10:30 PM

NORTON — The Norton City Council has given its blessing to a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Forest Service on maintenance and trail development in the High Knob area.

The council voted 4-0 Tuesday, with Councilman Robert Fultz Jr. absent, to have City Manager Fred Ramey Jr. sign the agreement.

At the council’s April 2 meeting, USFS Clinch District Ranger Michelle Davalos outlined how the district was dealing with federal cuts in the maintenance budget for recreation areas in the Jefferson National Forest.

Those cuts, Davalos said, mean that the day-use fee for the High Knob Recreation Area will climb from $3 to $5 this season.

Ramey on Tuesday said the city has already assisted the Clinch District with some repairs to the High Knob area’s water system. He said the agreement would formalize relationships between the ranger district and the city, which would ease cooperation in maintenance.

Ramey said the agreement also would give a framework to work with the Forest Service on plans to extend its trail system to the High Knob Observation Tower and to clear sections of USFS trails that connect with the city’s trail systems.

Connections between the city’s trail system and Big Stone Gap’s trails in the Big Cherry area could be easier to establish under the agreement because they would have to cross some parts of Forest Service land, Ramey added.

While not a part of the agreement, council members at the April 2 meeting said they would like to see the city and the Forest Service work together on other projects including improving the view from the High Knob Observation Tower and finding ways to open up Forest Service land for some ATV trails and shooting ranges.