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(MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK – November 10, 2008) This week marks the beginning of a Centennial project at Mammoth Cave National Park that will restore a barren, or prairie, along the Mammoth Cave Parkway near Park City. The park has contracted with Robert Poppy Excavation and Construction, LLC, to remove cedar and pine trees from the understory of about 64 acres of parkland, between now and the end of March. Funding is provided through the National Park Service Centennial Initiative.
“Cedars are some of the first succession species to move into open land, and that’s what has happened along the parkway,” said Superintendent Patrick Reed. “We’ll be taking the cedars and pines out, but leaving taller hardwoods. Opening the canopy in this way will allow sunlight to reach the ground, regenerating prairie seeds that have been dormant for years.”
The Commonwealth of Kentucky purchased the land along the Park City Road to create a parkway into Mammoth Cave National Park, and deeded it to the park in 1989. It was once open land, but has since grown over in shrubs, conifers, and a few taller deciduous trees.
“This will be a bit of an experiment in barren restoration,” said Reed. “The parkway area will be the fifth plot in the park to be restored to prairie species, but it will be our first attempt to allow the regeneration to occur naturally.”
At the other sites, Wondering Woods, Eagle Prairie, Onyx Meadows, and the old Job Corps site on Flint Ridge, woody and exotic species were removed with herbicides, and then planted in prairie grasses and flowering plants.
“This project is also our first prairie project that is visible to the traveling public,” added Reed. “The other sites are surrounded by woods, but these barrens will be within view of the bike and hike trail. And most of it will be in Barren County.”
The NPS Centennial Initiative is a 10-year effort to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation, and enjoyment, by the agency’s 100th anniversary in 2016.
As work proceeds, portions of Mammoth Cave RR Bike & Hike trail will be temporarily closed between the park boundary at Park City and the top of the hill at Chaumont. The contractor will use the trail for access to the work area, and the work area will be a hard hat zone.
“For safety, we are asking the public to use other sections of the trail while this work is underway,” said Reed.