State Parks officials, led by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, were in Whitley County last week to kick off the “Refreshing the Finest” campaign — an $18 million effort to improve the state’s park system, including repairs and upgrades at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
Bevin, alongside Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Don Parkinson and Parks Commissioner Donnie Holland, announced details of “Refreshing the Finest” at a special press conference held Thursday at the DuPont Lodge at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park; the most visited of the state’s 49 parks.
Seventeen of the state’s parks are resort parks like Cumberland Falls.
“We have a stunning array of state parks here in Kentucky, but they have become a bit tired,” said Gov. Bevin. “We need to make our parks shine. They are major contributors to the wealth of our state, and could be so much more if they are places people can visit while enjoying the amenities they expect.”
Bevin noted that Kentucky’s parks generate over $1 billion in economic activity each year. He said the park system really needs an infusion of about $250 million to make desired updates, but called the $18 million infusion a good start. The money is the first serious investment the state has made in the parks in several years.
“On several fronts, we have failed to take advantage of what we have. That is going to change,” said Bevin. “For far too many years, we just haven’t done anything. We’ve just delayed and delayed the maintenance. Those days are over.”
Officials said the $18 would go towards improving the safety and aesthetics of existing structures within the parks only, including structural repairs, painting and interior and exterior upgrades. The work for the “Refreshing the Finest” campaign will be carried out during 2016 and 2017.
“It’s a $240 million problem, we’re so happy to have $18 million,” Commissioner Holland said. “We intend to spend this money wisely and do what’s in the best interest of the park system. It’s a beginning of recovery. The parks have been starved quite a while.”
Holland noted that projects to fix safety issues in the parks would be given highest priority.
The work will include repairs for the swimming pool at Cumberland Falls as well as the replacement of railing at the falls area. Bids must still be sought for most of the park projects.
“Kentucky State Parks play an integral part in Kentucky’s economy, contributing $889 million every year,” said Sec. Parkinson. “Thanks to Gov. Bevin and the General Assembly, these parks will receive much needed upgrades.”
“Celebrate this moment with us, but expect more of the same,” said Bevin, in closing.
For more information about Kentucky State Parks, visit www.parks.ky.gov/