March 27, 2013 —
The first two articles in our series on Carter Caves State Resort Park prompted positive and negative reader comments.
Transfer of the park land from private owners to the state happened nearly 67 years ago but it apparently remains a lingering issue with descendants of certain local families.
Some claim the land was sold only after the Carter Caves Company went broke and had no choice but to divest itself of the rugged real estate.
Others say the investors shared the public’s goal of preserving the caves and agreed to sell at a bargain price after realizing their business plan could not succeed.
Our research found evidence on both sides of that issue but, in reality, does it matter today who did what to whom or for what reason?
There is no doubt that history was altered by the 1937 death of J. F. Lewis, the person arguably most responsible for development of the land that became Carter Caves State Resort Park.
He was a visionary, far ahead of his time in promoting what we know today as tourism. He also was a businessman who, along with several prominent investors, tried to turn a speculative investment into a moneymaking venture.
The bottom line is that Carter County has benefitted from Carter Caves – economically and culturally – since before the state park was created in 1946.
In our view, we should be focused today not on who gets credit for what happened in the past but how we can work together to make Carter Caves an even greater asset for years to come.