Controversy brews over future of neglected Observation Knob campground

John M. Dabbs

Debate and controversy are brewing over the future of Observation Knob campground in Sullivan County, as the county commission is set to vote on a resolution to terminate the county's lease agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to operate the park. Commissioner Cheryl Harvey, who sponsored the resolution, cited major maintenance issues that have been neglected over the years and the possibility of safety problems due to electrical issues at the park. A recent inspection found electrical problems that would require an $18,000 temporary fix or possibly a permanent fix that could cost between $250,000 and $500,000.

However, not all commissioners agree on ending the county's campground business. Commissioner Darlene Calton argued that the campground has made a profit over the last two years and that a plan could be put in place to gradually make many improvements over the next five years to make it more attractive to campers. She urged commissioners to give the campground a chance.

There are also questions regarding a $475,000 grant that the federal government recently awarded the county for Observation Knob through TVA. The approval letter stated the money has to be specifically used toward improvements under the American Disabilities Act and does not allow the money to be spent on other improvements such as electricity or sewer.

The controversy has been brewing for several months over changes to camping rules that would allow more visitors, pitting the county against long-time campers who have stayed at the campground for years. A decision on the resolution to terminate the lease agreement with TVA is set to be made next week during the county commission's regularly scheduled business meeting.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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