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'Mud bog' a success, seeks long-term permit

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The Grayson planning commission has approved a permit for “mudding” events, which could pave the way for future commercial recreation

By Staff Reports

INDEPENDENCE — The Grayson County Planning Commission has approved a long-term special use permit to allow year-round commercial recreation events on the property of James Carico, near 206 Cattle Drive in Fries.

After the property hosted a “Mudder’s Day Mud Bog Festival” that attracted more than 500 attendees in May, event organizer and zoning applicant Crystal Leonard contacted the commission about obtaining the permit so that the location could host future activities and festivals.

The commission reviewed Leonard’s application, considering both environmental impact and a report from the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office pertaining to the Mud Bog Festival. It was noted that Building Official Jimmy Moss found no problems in terms of environmental impact, and had reported that festival workers had done a “good job” cleaning up the property following the event.

Commission member Larry Bartlett asked Zoning Administrator Elaine Holeton if she had received comments on the proposal or complaints following the festival, which featured several monster trucks navigating a mud pit and musical performances that continued into nighttime hours.

“I did not receive any citizen comments after the public hearing notice went into the paper or when the certified letters were mailed,” said Holeton. “But I will say after the event I did have one complaint from an adjacent landowner regarding the noise. With that being said, I was a little amazed that there wasn’t more public comment on either side.”

Commission member Larry Brannock asked when activities would conclude at future events in the park, and Holeton answered that the applicant, Leonard, had noted all events would be slated to end by 9 p.m., except for concerts, which could continue until 11 p.m.

Leonard later clarified that only future Mud Bog Festivals and other special events and concerts could potentially go until, or slightly past, 11 p.m.

Leonard explained that some of the new events would include church activities, outdoor weddings and snow and sledding activities during the winter months. She said there had also been interest in starting a “Motorella” competition, which is a cancer fundraiser featuring a female athletic obstacle course. “No noise to worry about on that – it’s completely an afternoon event,” Leonard said.

Additionally, Leonard reported there had been some interest in constructing a concession stand to serve drinks and snacks on the site during events. Leonard said hosting the Mud Bog Festival had prepared her and other volunteers for several potential scenarios that may occur during future events, pointing out that unanticipated rain had been a problem.

Leonard also reported numbers for the large turnout for the first Mud Bog event, with up to 23 tent campers and nine camper spaces filled for the weekend. Attendance reached 275 Friday night, 375 during the day Saturday, and 550 to 575 for a Saturday night concert, according to Leonard. She based those figures on the number of admission wrist bands distributed, and did not account for children, who were admitted free.

In her closing comments, Leonard said one day she hoped the property would become known as “Carico Memorial Park.”

The commission opened a public hearing following Leonard’s presentation, but since no one spoke, the focus shifted back to members of the commission to make a decision.

“I think they have produced a ‘park’ and an event that is conducive to exploring new efforts for recreation and tourist activity that has not been destructive [to the land],” said Bartlett, who opened discussion leading up to the vote. “If 550 people were there, this means we have a new enterprise, a new effort, that I personally hope will grow.”

Bartlett continued by praising Leonard and other festival organizers by saying he was “amazed” at their work to clean up following the Mud Bog Festival.

“I personally feel that we have an obligation to advance our community and the endeavors of the people in our community and to assist any business that we can,” he said. “I see it as an innovative effort to create tourism and business in a park.”

Following Bartlett’s comments, Dr. Palmer Fant motioned that the commission approve the permit to allow for future events on the property. After a second, the commission voted unanimously in favor of approving the permit.

Improving the Floodplain Ordinance

Also at the meeting, the commission discussed new approaches to enforcing the county’s floodplain ordinance and improving community awareness of the laws in the document. Holeton said she had placed signs at entrances to designated shoreline recreation district areas and used funds from a Department of Conservation and Recreation grant to mail out 1,350 letters to owners of properties in those districts.

She received “about 20 calls a day” from citizens and property owners who were grateful for the notice and information about floodplain safety.