Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

April 10, 2013

Carter Caves State Resort Park: Volunteers of the heart

Last of a series

By Keith Kappes - Publisher

April 10, 2013 —     “Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”

    Chris Perry, manager of Carter Caves State Resort Park, was not the first person to utter such a statement about the worth of volunteers but that’s exactly how he feels.

    “Words cannot express the appreciation we have for the countless volunteers who come here from all over the country,” he said. “They give of their skills and time simply because of the love they have for this park.”

    Grayson likes to promote itself as the “Heart of the Parks” because it has two nearby state parks – Carter Caves and Grayson Lake – and a third one, Greenbo, just over the county line in Greenup County.

    At Carter Caves, they say their volunteers are the heart of that park.

     During its summer season, Carter Caves has about 70 employees, half of them on a temporary basis. That leaves about 35 staff members to operate the park during the rest of the year.

    Yet, the park’s rapidly growing “Winter Adventure Weekend” in January literally requires multiple dozens of persons to staff the various activity venues.

    So how does it happen so successfully?

    “It works because we have nearly 200 volunteers who show up to lead programs and manage events that we simply can’t staff with our own employees,” Perry says proudly. “These people are incredibly committed to our efforts to broaden the park’s appeal, especially for adventure tourism.”

    But volunteerism at Carter Caves is not limited to special, fun-filled events.

    “We have volunteers who show up as regular as clockwork to help us plant flowers and clean up the trails and do so many other things that most people would not consider fun,” Perry added. “We maintain a list of names of volunteers who have particular skills and talents that are invaluable to us.”

    The park manager can’t say enough good things about the Friends of Carter Caves, a fund raising group whose members give of their time and their treasure to support the park.

    “They’ve come through so many times when we’ve needed things to offer new activities and events,” Perry stated. “Some of the adventure-based activities such as zip-lining that are becoming permanent attractions were started with the financial help of the Friends of Carter Caves.”

    The non-profit, tax exempt organization was established by retired park naturalist John Tierney and now is headed by Steve Duncan. The group’s website is

    Perry says the Friends group encourages local citizens and businesses to become involved in helping the park grow and be an even greater economic asset for Carter County.

    He also is very positive about the local homemaker groups throughout the county that come into the park before Christmas and decorate the lodge lobby and other areas.

    “They do so because they’re proud of this park and want others to feel the same,” he said.

    Members of one such group, the Carter Caves Homemakers, are available at the request of the park management to provide refreshments or other decorations for special events and presentations.

    “Like any good friend helping another, they just show up and do their best at whatever we ask,” Perry said. “We truly are blessed to have them.”

    Keith Kappes can be reached at kkappes@ or by telephone at 800-247-6142.