Mammoth Cave National Park

WKU Public Radio

Mammoth Cave National Park and Cave City are preparing for celebrations that will mark special anniversaries in 2016.

Mammoth Cave will mark its 75th anniversary as a national park its 200th anniversary as a location for cave tours. In addition, Cave City will celebrate it sesquicentennial.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports Mammoth Cave plans to redo trails in the historic section of the cave and repair an elevator to offer impaired-mobility tours.

In addition, it plans to hold events focused on attracting more visitors and is working with the nonprofit organization Friends of Mammoth Cave to sponsor week long day camps for area children in June.

Events for next year are still being planned, but discussions have included holding concerts, painting murals and a Cave City festival.

WKU Public Radio

Fee increases set to go into effect next month at Mammoth Cave National Park will be used to renovate the park’s hotel.

Superintendent Sarah Craighead  announced Thursday that the new fees will  begin March 14.

Most cave tours will increase by $1 or $2, with the Wild Cave tour increasing by $5. Camping fees will jump from $3 to $5, and the cost of reserving picnic shelters will increase $25.

Craighead predicts the fee hikes will bring the park an additional $350,000 this year.

Eighty-percent of the fees collected at Mammoth Cave are used to fund facilities and services at the park. The remaining fees support national parks that don’t charge entrance fees, such as the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Hodgenville.

Mammoth Cave accepted public comments about the proposed fee increases from Nov. 14-Dec. 5, 2014. The park says it received 17 comments—12 in favor of the fee hike, and five opposed.

Rick Toomey, National Park Service

Researchers say the discovery of a deadly fungal disease in a Warren County cave spells more trouble for the region’s bat populations.

A team of National Park Service scientists found evidence of White Nose Syndrome in Crumps Cave in northern Warren County, near the town of Smiths Grove. WKU owns several acres of land around the cave and operates a research and education preserve there.

White Nose Syndrome, for which there is no known cure, is blamed for the deaths of millions of bats in North America since its discovery in 2006.

The team of NPS researchers observed 53 Tri-colored bats inside Crumps Cave on Feb. 10, with a dozen of them displaying signs of White Nose Syndrome. The disease causes bats to prematurely awaken from their hibernation and leave the cave, which exposes them to freezing conditions. Affected bats use up vital energy and nutrients that are necessary for their survival.

The syndrome was discovered in 2013 in Mammoth Cave National Park, and has led to an 80 percent decline in some bat species found there.

Watch a video about efforts to combat White Nose Syndrome in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Mammoth Cave Monitoring Ozone Effects On Park Flora

Nov 26, 2014
Emil Moffatt

High ozone levels aren’t healthy for people, especially the very young, elderly or sick. But the pollution is bad for plants, too, and researchers at Mammoth Cave National Park are trying to determine its effects on the park’s flora.

Ozone is created when pollution cooks in the sun. There’s a federal standard for ozone pollution—and the EPA announced this week that it will become more stringent soon—but that’s based on human exposure.

Bobby Carson is the chief of science and resources management at Mammoth Cave. He says the National Park Service has been measuring ozone damage to plants annually, and has found many are sensitive to high ozone concentrations.

“What we’ve been seeing is obviously these plants, trees and vegetation are out there in the resource 24/7, so they’re getting a lot more exposure,” said Carson.

Carson says common symptoms on plants include black spots, and high exposure to ozone makes them more susceptible to disease and insects. He says ozone levels will have to be reduced in order to adequately protect the plant species in the national park.

WKU Public Radio

Mammoth Cave National Park is planning an increase in the amount of fees visitors would pay for cave tours, camping, and picnic shelters.

Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead announced the proposed fee increases Friday afternoon. Under the plan, the cost of most cave tours would increase by $1-$2 dollars, with camping fees climbing to $5 from the current rate of $2.

The cost of reservable picnic shelters would jump $25.

Those interested in commenting on the proposed changes can do so until December 5.

Written comments can be made at the National Park Service planning website.

Craighead says the proposed fee increases would result in an additional $350,000 a year that the park would reinvest in projects.

“Our highest priority right now is to complete the renovations of the Mammoth Cave Hotel. The fees are also used to pay for the cave guides who do the tours, and for a variety of operational costs, like cleaning the campground," the Barren County native said.

Eighty percent of the fees collected at Mammoth Cave are used to pay for facilities and services at the park, with the other 20 percent used support projects at national parks that don’t charge entrance fees.

National Park Service

The chief law enforcement officer at Mammoth Cave National Park says one of her top challenges is keeping ginseng-poachers out of the area.

The plant’s root is highly prized for its alleged medicinal benefits, and Mammoth Cave Chief Ranger Lora Peppers says wild-grown ginseng can command high prices on the black market--especially in certain Asian countries.

“Digging ginseng in the park is obviously not allowed, but a lot of people are looking for that wild-grown ginseng. The ginseng that you find in some farms is not valued as highly as native ginseng.”

Peppers, an Edmonson County native and WKU graduate, says park employees have scoured the area to find ginseng and mark plants found within the park’s boundaries. Those markings make it much easier to prosecute poachers who sell illegally-harvested ginseng taken from the Mammoth Cave area.

Emil Moffatt

A new report shows tourism related to Mammoth Cave National Park is responsible for $40 million in economic benefit to the region.

The analysis conducted by a group of economists with the U.S. Geological Survey measured the impact of tourism dollars spent by park visitors in 2013. According to the report, 494,541 visitors came to Mammoth Cave National Park last year, with tourism dollars supporting 567 jobs in the region.

Mammoth Cave acting superintendent Lizzie Watts told WKU Public Radio the nearly half-a-million visitors who came to the south-central Kentucky attraction did more than just spend money. She says they also walked away with an enhanced respect for the region that they take back with them to their communities across the U.S. and globe.

“The environment of Mammoth Cave is one of the most unique in the whole world. So just the experience of walking in the cave for many people, it’s the one time--and maybe the only time—they get that experience. And they can take that all over the world and say ‘yes, I was in the largest cave system in the whole world.’”

Watts says Mammoth Cave is seeing an increase in the number of visitors interested in boating along the Green River, as well as those using the eight-mile Big Hollow Trail, which was opened in December to mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.

“The park itself is really a mecca for recreation above the ground, in many ways, both biking and hiking, and boating and canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding.”

Overall, the new report says the 273.6 million visitors to National Park Service attractions in 2013 spent  $14.6 billion in areas within 60 miles of a park.

Emil Moffatt

After a 10 minute climb up a gentle incline just off the main trail at Mammoth Cave National Park, Rick Toomey stands on a wooden platform overlooking Dixon Cave.

“It’s one of our most important hibernation sites,” said Toomey, the park’s research coordinator.

He says during the winter thousands of bats, including several different species hibernate here.  But those numbers might be on the verge of a drastic change.

“This is a site that could be vastly altered in five years.  In five years we might go in there and find five or ten bats total,” said Toomey. “It’s a very realistic possibility based on what’s been seen elsewhere. And that would be devastating to our ecosystem up here.”

The problem: White Nose Syndrome. It started in the northeast in 2006. It was first noticed at Mammoth Cave in 2013 and has since spread to the caves that welcomed nearly half-a million visitors last year.

Toomey says the fungus that gives White Nose Syndrome its name is just one of the symptoms of the devastating disease.

Federal Study Recommends Green River Dam Removal

Mar 9, 2014
WKU Public Radio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed removing a dam on the Green River near Mammoth Cave National Park.

The Daily News reports a study includes the recommendation, saying the action would improve aquatic life and recreational activities. Alternative actions include modifying the lock and not disturbing the dam, installing a barricade and disposing of the property or doing nothing.

The river has been closed to navigational traffic for decades and the study says the dams on the river have continued to deteriorate. In addition to removing Green River Dam No. 6 near Mammoth Cave, the study recommends disposing of three other dams along the river as well as Barren River Lock and Dam No. 1.

The federal agency is accepting comments on the proposal through March 17.

Park staff are in the process of closing down all services and roads in Mammoth Cave National Park because of the winter storm.

The Green River Ferry is closed, cave tours have been suspended, park roads are closed. The Mammoth Cave Hotel and park offices are also closed.

For park road information, you can call 270-758-2165.

For ferry information, you can call 270-758-2166.

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