Two large advertising signs at the Cummings Cove development in Lookout Valley were vandalized Friday.
One sign was spray painted with an expletive and another had the word "Aetna" in large letters.
There has been a long-running dispute between owners of Cummings Cove and those who enjoy going up the old Aetna Mountain Road to ride off-highway vehicles. Cummings Cove personnel said they believe the vandalism was by members of that group.
Joe Blevins, a member of the off-highway vehicles group, denied the charge.
He said, "Dan Hicks, spokesman for the TWRA, just recently released a statement to the media that Aetna Mountain is in good shape concerning any litter or vandalizing of their signs, I spoke to him myself in person the other day and he told me the same thing. He and Agent Joe Busch were very nice and we had a real good discussion.
"Now answer me this - how much easier would it be to destroy the TWRA signs in the middle of nowhere than to risk going to jail for destruction of property in a large development? From looking at the pictures on the website, it appears the paint is an orange color mainly used by contractors. Also, you would need to be eight feet tall or use a ladder to reach the top of the signs.
"Another question, who would benefit by giving the impression that recreational off-road riders did this? Maybe someone with contractor paint and complete access to the area without attracting attention? I think you get the picture."
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is considering putting restrictions on OHV use on property it manages on top of Aetna Mountain. A public comment period is to start soon.
At the same time, Cummings Cove owners have plans to build hundreds of homes atop the mountain that is now woodland.
A new road is being built up the mountain near the path of the old road. It is paved for about a half mile before joining the old road the rest of the way.
Some lots are being laid out for new homes near the lower part of the road.
The vandalism was along River Gorge Road, which is a city street.
Chancellor Howell Peoples ruled several years ago that the old road is a public road available to all.
Cameras have been installed along portions of the road.