Park tourism expected to break record numbers again in 2017

By BILL MARDIS Commonwealth Journal   

Huge truckloads of white sand await construction of a beach at Pulaski County Park. The sand, with a Gulf Coast sparkle, is being hauled here from Tennessee, and more is to come.

Asked when sand will be spread on the beach, John Cain, administrative assistant to Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley, responded: “The sooner the better.” Cain pointed out the lake is likely to rise with spring rains and high water will inhibit the work.

  Money for the beach was raised by the 2014 Class Lake Cumberland Leadership, a Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce group. The beach will be located at a former swimming area directly across the lake from Fishing Creek Recreation Area.

   An improved and widened boat-launching ramp near the beach leads to a newly installed courtesy dock for convenience of boaters. The improvements are part of a promise by Kelley to give the county-owned park a family atmosphere after controversy over a suggested rock band concert a couple of years ago threatened existence of the park.

  A new policy has kept main roads in the park open this winter to allow people to “enjoy the beauty of the area,” Judge Kelley said. Camping areas will open March 24 for the vacation season.

  Kelley was unavailable for comment, but he told the Commonwealth Journal earlier a new playground structure for kids, a 600-square-foot splash (water playground) for toddlers and a miniature golf course are in the park’s future.

  Plans are to expand the current nine miles of hiking and biking trails to 30 miles, hopefully attracting national biking and hiking organizations to bring hundreds of visitors to the county and get national publicity, Kelley said.

  Pulaski County Park includes about 800 acres of which only 50 to 60 acres are currently utilized. “Some of the most beautiful spots overlooking the lake are on these unused areas,” said Kelley, noting “ … there is a lot of acreage there and places for more RV camping.” Twelve years remain on the county’s lease agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and “ … we are currently negotiating to renew the lease,” Kelley said.

   The park acreage was leased from the Corps by Pulaski County shortly after Lake Cumberland was impounded in 1951. The late Herbert Higgins, Pulaski County educator and a member of Somerset Kiwanis Club, was an ardent supporter and sort of an unofficial caretaker of the park during its early years. A plaque citing his efforts is attached to one of the main shelter houses at the park.

 A newly opened General Store at entrance to the park is in the renovated home of former park manager Vickie McQueary and her assistant and husband Mike. Kelley praised the McQuearys, both of whom now have jobs in county government.

  “Vickie and Mike for 16 years held that park together with very little help from county government or anybody,” said Kelley.

  Pulaski Fiscal Court budgets $224,335 for operation of parks during the current fiscal year, some $45,000 of which is targeted for three other county parks.