Cumberland Gap National Historical Park's Final General Management Plan Now Available
Photo by Harold Jerrell
Contact: Mark Woods, Superintendent, (606) 246-1050
"Exciting" and "transformation" best describe the past 15 years at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP). With the completion of the park's General Management Plan (GMP), published in the Federal Register on February 2, 2011, Superintendent Mark Woods forecasts the next 10 to 15 years to be an "encore performance." According to Woods, this long term planning document is a "tool establishing and articulating a management philosophy and framework for decision making and problem solving in the park." Woods further explains that the GMP examines three alternatives for managing Cumberland Gap NHP and also analyzes the impacts of implementing each of the alternatives.
One of the three alternatives is a "no-action alternative" reflecting park current conditions and management actions continued into the future. This alternative provides a baseline against which to compare the other alternatives. In Alternative B, the park provides some additional opportunities for access for visitors to enjoy a wide variety of cultural and natural resources in an outdoor setting. Alternative C, the preferred alternative, provides additional opportunities for access for visitors to enjoy the park's cultural and natural resources, while increasing and formalizing partnering efforts, and increasing opportunities for educational and interpretive activities.
Superintendent Woods details the strong foundation for Alternative C. "In 1996, the park completed approximately 280 million dollars in construction projects involving construction of the twin-bore Cumberland Gap Tunnel system and relocation of U.S. Highways 25E and 58. Subsequently, the Cumberland Gap and Wilderness Road, the park's primary historic feature, was rehabilitated to its natural and historical topography. In 2000, the park began offering tours through Gap Cave (formerly Cudjo's Cave) which the park purchased in 1992. To enhance the visitor's experience and protect sensitive cave resources, a standard lighting system and a set of walkways were removed. Hand held flashlights now reveal the cave's extensive and exquisite formations. As a result of the Fern Lake Conservation and Recreation Act of 2001, the park was authorized by Congress to complete one of its original goals: protection of the Fern Lake Watershed. The majority of land surrounding Fern Lake has now been acquired. In partnership with Virginia's Wilderness Road State Park, the communities of Cumberland Gap and Harrogate, Tennessee and Lincoln Memorial University, the park was involved in the joint development of a Greenway Trail System. The national park obligated 1.7 million dollars to the renovation of the Little Tunnel, which via the trail system, connects the town of Cumberland Gap to Harrogate. Several years after the initial renovation, the park provided additional funding to enhance lighting and concrete within the Little Tunnel rendering a safer and more enjoyable experience for both bicyclists and walkers. On July 4th, 2009, during the park's 50th Anniversary celebration, the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was unveiled. The non-profit organization strengthens awareness and assists the park in its mission through fundraising efforts and volunteering."
As Woods highlights project accomplishments, he quickly emphasizes the cornerstone of all park operations as "the strong support from park stakeholders, park neighbors and park visitors." "Throughout the GMP process, individuals and groups provided comments and suggestions. We're very fortunate at Cumberland Gap in that stakeholders value, participate in and benefit from their park and are in constant communication with park management."
Limited copies of the GMP are available at park headquarters located in Middlesboro, Kentucky and can also be found on the park's website at www.nps.gov/cuga. When accessing the website, visitors should click on "Park Management" followed by "Park Planning." Superintendent Woods reminds stakeholders, neighbors and visitors that as they review the plan, they should remember that the document addresses a long range management approach for the park. Subsequent implementation plans will address specific facilities, activities, designs and locations. Also, the approval of a general management plan does not guarantee that funding and staffing needed to implement the plan will be forthcoming. For additional information on the long range planning document and other park activities, please call 606-248-2817, extension 1050.