Representatives from the Kentucky State Park System, Kentucky Tourism, and local leaders met at Carter Caves State Resort Park last week to announce over $5 million in funding for Carter Caves and Greenbo Lake parks.

Carter Caves will receive over $4 million in funding for upgrades and maintenance, while Greenbo, which received a new lodge after a fire damaged the old building, will receive an additional $1 million in funding.

This is only a portion of the recently approved $50 million for parks across the state, as part of the Restoring the Finest campaign.

“We were facing $240 million in deferred maintenance at the beginning of this administration," Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland said. This funding, he added, will allow the parks to make “much-needed repairs and improvements to help keep our parks open and contributing to the tourism economy across the state.”

Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Donald Parkinson said that the park system has already spent $30 million of $95 million that the state has committed to the parks system.

“We were appalled at the shape of parks when we came into office,” he said of himself and Holland.

The duo “begged” for funding and received an $18 million commitment, starting with $7 million. That then grew to $20 million, and then $50 million, until they reached the $95 million commitment they have received to date.

“These projects are critical to our state parks to keep our guests and employees safe,” Parkinson noted.

The fire at Greenbo that resulted in the construction of a new lodge was one example of how a lack of maintenance funding was hurting parks. That fire was caused when a leaking roof caused an electrical fire.

With this new funding, they said, Carter Caves will have received an estimated $4.5 million and Greenbo an estimated $2.6 million since 2016.

The improvements at Carter Caves include water and sewage upgrades, a new roof for the lodge, and campground improvements.

Greenbo is set to have the roof replaced over the lodge rooms and to receive a new fire alarm and sprinkler system.

They aren't flashy upgrades, Parkinson noted, but they are essential to the success of the park and to the comfort of guests and employees.

Greenup County Judge Executive Bobby Carpenter said he “appreciates” the investment, but went on to ask the park system to invest in more full-time staff at Greenbo. This, he said, would help locals working there and prove beneficial to the maintenance of the park. He also said he would like to see cabins added to the amenities at Greenbo.

Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone said that Carter Caves was a “great asset” and one that he had enjoyed since first visiting the park as a child. He said that he looked forward to working with Carpenter and with the folks at Grayson Lake to improve tourism opportunities across the region, because, as he noted, “we're all a part of the whole.”

Malone also inquired about the process for adding property to the park, noting that there is a section of wooded land, with a cabin, between Cascade Cavern and the main body of the park that he believes would be a valuable addition to the park.

Friends of Carter Caves president John Tierney added to Malone's request, noting that the parcel in question was 52 acres of land that was currently privately owned. Tierney agreed with Malone that adding the parcel to the park's property would be beneficial, especially in connecting Cascade Cavern with the rest of the park.

State Senator Robin Webb told the crowd the “parks have always been close to my heart,” and commended Malone and Carpenter for working together with a regional view rather than competing against one another.

Webb also thanked Carter Caves park manager Chris Perry for his hard work in promoting and creating attractions for the park, as well as reaching out to the local community with programs like the backpack food program for feeding hungry children.

“This is an investment (in the community),” Webb said. “This is important.”

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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