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.
The superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park has announced the south-central Kentucky attraction has begun to implement budget cuts related to the sequestration. Sarah Craighead says Mammoth Cave is prepared to cut five-percent of its budget.
In the first effects of the cuts that will be felt by the public, the Houchin Ferry and Houchin Ferry campground did not open this week as scheduled. Houchin Ferry shuttles vehicles across the Green River near Brownsville.
In a previous interview with WKU Public Radio, Superintendent Craighead mentioned there will fewer cave tour options this summer, as well.
"We will not be hiring about seven seasonal tour guides that we intended to hire for the summer. And as a result we will eliminate a couple of the tours, because we won't have the guides available to give those tours," Craighead said.
The superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park says she's prepared to carry out the first cuts that would take place under sequestration. If Congress and the White House don't work out a deal by Friday, all national parks have been instructed to prepare for five-percent budget reductions.
"Those measures would include a variety of things, including not filling some permanent positions, such as the park electrician, and a variety of other seasonal positions," Sarah Craighead told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.
The Barren County native says the first change the public would experience if sequestration happens would be a delay in the opening of Houchen's Ferry, which had been scheduled for March 10th. The ferry shuttles vehicles across the Green River near Brownsville.
Craighead says hiring will be delayed for at least 11 seasonal positions unless a deal to end the sequester happens soon. Some of those seasonal positions would be for cave guides this summer. The Grand Avenue and Snowball cave tours would also end unless a deal is reached.
A disease responsible for killing millions of bats in North America has spread to caves at two state parks in eastern Kentucky that are homes to federally endangered bats, parks officials said Friday.
White-nose syndrome has been detected in caves at Carter Caves State Resort Park and Kingdom Come State Park, said state parks department spokesman Gil Lawson. Small numbers of bats have died so far from the disease, he said.
It's the latest red flag in the fight to prevent the spread of the disease in Kentucky, home to large numbers of bats that hibernate in a vast network of caves.
The disease has been found in 10 Kentucky counties - Bell, Breckinridge, Carter, Christian, Edmonson, Hart, Letcher, Trigg, Warren and Wayne, Lawson said. White-nose was confirmed earlier this year at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and in one of the caves at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Mammoth Cave National Park has completed its visitor center renovation and exhibit installation and is inviting the public to take a look. An open house is scheduled for 3:30 pm to 5 pm Tuesday. The park says Phase I cost $6 million, provided from park fees, and included demolition of the administrative building to make way for a large lobby, information desk, ticket sales and restrooms.
The chief of interpretation at Mammoth Cave National Park has decided to hang up his Smokey Bear hat and retire. Mike Adams, who has been with the National Park Service since 1973, said the completion of the new Mammoth Cave visitor center prompted him to make the decision.
A veteran of the National Park Service who grew up in Kentucky's cave country has been chosen as the new superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park. Sarah Craighead, who started her career with the National Park Service at Mammoth Cave in the 1970s, will begin her new post Nov. 4.
Mammoth Cave National Park is making use of some new propane-fueled vehicles, thanks to a partnership between the National Park Service and the Department of Energy's Clean Cities Program. The vehicles are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the park.