CAVE CITY — The Caveland Marketing Association hosted its annual legislative luncheon on Monday at the Cave City Convention Center.
Guest speaker for the luncheon was Barclay Trimble, superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park, who talked about the importance of national parks partnering with communities in which they are located to give visitors the best experience possible.
“More than a half million people come to the park every year and visit both the subterranean and surface activities,” he said.
While the cave, which consists of more than 400 miles, is the primary attraction to the national park, Trimble said there are an array of surface activities available such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, picnicking and paddling.
MCNP is situated in Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties. The national park coordinates regularly with the chambers of commerce and tourism boards in those counties to promote tourism throughout the southcentral Kentucky region.
“Tourism growth in the region has continued to increase with some years showing the cave region growing in the highest level in the commonwealth,” Trimble said. “This is in part to the work and dedication of groups like the Caveland Marketing Association and our other partners who are actively promoting the region as an outstanding travel destination for the many attractions and visitor amminities that we have in the area.”
Park visitation through November is 483,000 people and is on track with visitation to the national park over the last couple of years. Annual visitation to the national park has increased by 10 percent from what was experienced in the early 2000s, he said.
At one time, area attractions and businesses competed with one another and with MCNP, rather than partnering together with one another to grow and further develop tourism in the area.
“The history of people being more competitive than cooperative has prevailed and we want to make sure that we use the energy of Mammoth Cave and of the local people to be progressive, so it is very important,” said Sandra Wilson, president of CMA.
More than 80 percent of the visitors to MCNP participate in cave tours, which generates revenue that is used to improve and enhance the services offered to visitors at the national park.
“The spending of these hundreds of thousands of dollars does not stop at the park boundary, the impact reaches far beyond the park,” Trimble said. “Studies that have been done within the park show that trip-related spending by NPS visitors generates and supports significant economic activity within the park gateway communities. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy returning $10 for every $1 spent within the national park service.”
He continued that the 2018 economic impact study found MCNP alone brought in 533,000 visitors to the park, and who spent an estimated $4.1 million in the gateway communities.
“What does this really mean for the outside entities? Visitors' spending supported 599 jobs, $22 million in labor income and $61 million in economic output in the gateway communities,” he said.
MCNP consults with and informs its partners about its projects and planning efforts due to the effect they may have on the neighboring communities.
Ongoing projects at MCNP are: Comprehensive Trail Management Plan, which involves personnel with Clemson and Kansas State universities being on site for the next year gathering data from hikers, bikers and paddlers who carry electronic transponders with them for the day to see what the activity is and where it is occurring; Grand Avenue Route Cave Trail Park Project, which involves reconstruction of a 2-mile section of the trail and is expected to be completed by June 2020; reconstruction of the trail through the Wondering Woods cave, which is expected to be open by September 2020; and the Green River Ferry improvement project that involves the extension of the ramps leading to the river by 30 feet into the water and the refurbishment of an older ferry, which is expected to be done by the spring.
Projects to undertaken later include the installation of a permanent canoe and kayak ramp at the Green River Ferry; construction of new family-sized cabins that will be large enough to accommodate eight to 12 people; installation of a new roof on Mammoth Cave Lodge; improvements to the Woodland Cottages near the national park's visitor center, which include heating and cooling; improvements to the historic cottages, which improves replacement of the knob-and-tube wiring; improvements to the national park's sewer system that involves replacing and rerouting some of the sewer lines and the sealing of manholes that have earth around them; the redevelopment of the Houchin Ferry area in Edmonson County to make it a more premier camping spot and to offer canoe and kayak opportunities; and improvements at the Dennison Ferry area for better canoe and kayak activities.
After Trimble's talk, Greg Davis, executive director of the Cave City Tourist and Convention Commission, said he thought improvements made by any attraction or business, including MCNP, will help increase tourism to the area.
“Any improvement is going to help the visitor experience and especially, what I'm excited about is the improved trails inside the cave, as well, since I'm a horseback rider, I'm excited about some of the surface trails also. I think all of that is important,” he said.