In a significant stride towards enhancing visitor experience and preserving natural heritage, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park celebrated the completion of a trail rehabilitation project funded by the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).
The project, which spanned a year, focused on refurbishing approximately one mile of cave trail to ensure visitor safety, enrich tour experiences, and safeguard the cave’s natural and cultural resources.
The celebration of this milestone was marked with a ribbon-cutting event graced by park officials, invited guests, and the diligent construction project leaders.
The project saw the hardening of the trail’s surface, installation of new handrails, upgrading several sets of stairs, and the transportation of around 1.5 million pounds of materials into the cave for the trail project.
The labor-intensive endeavor required the team to work in dark and damp conditions underground for almost 12 months, as per the news release of the National Park Service.
The GAOA, enacted in 2020, played a pivotal role in making this rehabilitation possible. The Act, which permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million per year and provides $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance backlog at American national parks, has been hailed as the most significant conservation legislation in nearly half a century.
The rehabilitation project at Mammoth Cave National Park is a direct manifestation of the GAOA’s impact on improving and preserving national parks across the country. The meticulous work involved in this project not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the cave but also significantly contributes to the safety and accessibility of the cave trails for visitors.
The project also saw the improvement of two gathering areas for tour groups and major changes to the overlook of Crystal Lake in the Frozen Niagara section.
Public cave tours through the Domes and Dripstones tour route are set to resume in early October, with cave guides actively training in the new section of the cave to reacquaint themselves with the tour route, geology, and history.
The economic ripple effect of this project extends to the local community. In 2021, the park received 516,000 visitors who spent an estimated $47.9 million in local gateway regions.
This spending supported 643 jobs, $25.5 million in labor income, $40.9 million in value added, and $69.2 million in economic output in local gateway economies surrounding Mammoth Cave National Park.
The funding from GAOA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are part of a concerted effort to address the extensive deferred maintenance and repair backlog in national parks.
The Mammoth Cave National Park rehabilitation project is a shining example of how federal funding can significantly contribute to the preservation and enhancement of natural heritage sites.
Learn more information about the Cave Trail Rehabilitation Project and view photos from the construction of their Park Projects website.