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.
White Nose Syndrome has spread to more areas at Mammoth Cave National Park and may end up costing farmers billions of dollars
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.
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.
Governor Beshear’s Communications Director Kerri Richardson says Beshear needs more information regarding future federal reimbursement and the level at which the facilities could be reopened before deciding on reopening federal parks like Mammoth Cave and Land Between the Lakes.
There’s no word yet from Governor Steve Beshear regarding whether he will use state funds to reopen national parks that have been closed due to the government shutdown.
The Obama administration says it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks.
The Governors of Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, and Utah have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impacts caused by the park closures. The closing of parks in Kentucky, such as Mammoth Cave National Park, has sent workers home and is a drag on local economies that benefit from tourists who visit the park and other nearby attractions.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a letter Thursday to the four governors that the government will consider offers to pay for park operations, but will not surrender control of national parks to the states.
The United States put on an adoption ceremony today at Mammoth Cave National Park.
In a courtroom made by nature, the U.S. adopted 39 new citizens. In the depths of a cave, a federal judge presided over the ceremony featuring natives of 22 countries around the world. Park Ranger David Alexander sang "The Star Spangled Banner," and Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead gave the country's newest citizens and official welcome.
"We are so pleased and honored to have you spend your first few minutes as citizens in a national park," remarked Craighead. "There's not a more perfect place to have that occur."
Nearly 50 immigrants from 23 countries will become U.S. citizens in a ceremony Friday at Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky. The ceremony is possible through an agreement between the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the National Park Service.
"There have been a number of them at Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty...and of course national parks are so American, and they're public land, so they belong to all American citizens," says Mammoth Cave Public Information Officer Vickie Carson.
The ceremony will take place inside a cave and feature remarks from Mammoth Cave's deputy superintendent Bruce Powell, a naturalized citizen himself. Mammoth Cave last hosted a citizenship ceremony in 2011.
A major tourist draw in our region is offering a chance to see the world's largest cave system for free.
Mammoth Cave National Park will offer free Mammoth Passage cave tours on Sunday, August 25, in recognition of Founders Day, the founding day of the National Park Service.
“On August 25, 1916, Congress passed the Organic Act, which established the National Park Service,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “I hope many of our friends and neighbors will help us celebrate by attending one of these free tours."
The free Mammoth Passage tours will depart from the visitor center at the following times: 8:45, 10:15, 11:15, 12:00, 1:15, 2:15, 3:30, and 4:30. The ¾-mile, 1¼ hours Mammoth Passage tour is limited to 40 people. Participants need to pick up a free ticket in the visitor center before going on the tour.
Mammoth Cave National Park is overcoming federal budget cuts to register some of the strongest summer attendance in recent memory.
The park's public information officer, Vickie Carson, says four cave tours were not offered this summer because of cuts related to the federal sequestration. But that didn't stop cave tour numbers from increasing one-to-two percent this year over the same time in 2012.
"If we continue at this rate through the end of the year, we'll probably be at 405,000 visitors through the cave this year. That would be a high point for at least the last ten years," Carson told WKU Public Radio.
Carson says with gas prices still well above $3 a gallon, Mammoth Cave has remained an attractive day trip option for those within close driving range.
Mammoth Cave National Park is preparing to continue current budget cuts into the next fiscal year. The popular southern Kentucky attraction has let many full-time and seasonal positions go unfilled due to the cuts.
Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead tells WKU Public Radio the government has informed all national parks to not expect any relief from the hit they took earlier this year from the sequestration.
"We are currently being told to plan to carry forward the cuts that we took this year, so as we start our budget effort we will plan on continuing that five-percent reduction in our budget," said Craighead. "We haven't been given any additional information regarding next year's budget."
Mammoth Cave has left several full-time positions go unfilled as part of their budget reduction, including the park electrician. Superintendent Craighead says the park is relying more on volunteer help than it normally would, and is asking for volunteers to help the park maintain its many hiking trails.