MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK — Visitation to Mammoth Cave National Park was up by 3 percent in 2017, according to Barclay Trimble, the national park's superintendent.
Trimble shared the information with members of the Cave City Tourist and Convention Commission, which met for their regular monthly meeting Monday morning at the Green River Grill at the Mammoth Cave Lodge at the national park.
The increase in visitation to the national park is due mostly to the number of people who turned out to watch the solar eclipse in August.
“We had an additional 14,000 people to come during that four-to-five day period during the eclipse,” he said. “If we take that out of the calculation, we are right at last year's numbers, which is really good. Right now, with the numbers we have at least right now, we haven't had this high of a number in over 20 years, so it's been very positive for the park this year.”
Trimble anticipates visitation to the national park to decline in 2018 due to not having such a major event as the solar eclipse, but he told tourist commissioners he hoped it would remain strong.
The national park is currently operating on its winter schedule and is offering eight cave tours. Beginning March 10 it will start its spring schedule and will offer 16 tours.
“An interesting statistic for all of you is that over the past six years we are up by about 100,000 people taking cave tours, so it has been substantially increasing over the last (few) of years,” Trimble said.
He also announced that the national park will be offering free cave tours on Martin Luther King Day, which falls on Jan. 15.
As far as projects underway at the park, the replacement of the pedestrian bridge between the hotel and the visitors center is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month; work to install an electronic charging station is set to begin this week, weather permitting; the final layer of asphalt on the parking lot for the Echo Springs Trail by the Green River Ferry will be done this spring; and an upgrade of the camper services building is underway.
Trimble also talked about plans for a park clean-up in the spring and grand openings for the pedestrian bridge and the Echo Springs Trail.
Sharon Tabor, executive director of the tourist commission, shared with tourist commissioners that the tourist commission had received an America Walks mini-grant for the Floyd Collins Trail, which begins at the railroad crossing in downtown Cave City and extends along Mammoth Cave Street to the interchange with Ky. 70.
“Over 750 communities applied for that mini-grant and we were one of the very few that were chosen,” she said.
Tabor is hoping to use the grant funds to cover the cost for signage and to add some sidewalk art along the route.
She also gave a report on a Feb. 1 meeting of the Cave City/Horse Cave Trail Town Committee members and city officials, during which Troy Hearn coordinator for the Kentucky Bicycle and Pedestrian Association will review with them bike and pedestrian needs in each town.
In other business, tourist commissioners approved the reappointment of hotelier Nick Patel to the tourist commission for a three-year term; approved the reappointment of hotelier Russ Yonker for an additional one-year, making his term four years; approved the appointment of Brian Wilson as the member at large to replace Seaborn Ellzey's whose term expires Jan. 31; and agreed to appoint tourist commissioners De'Lynn Buckingham, Raj Vadhai and Wilson to serve on a committee to nominate officers for the tourist commission.