Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on Center Stage
Special to The Mountain Advocate
As the first hints of autumn – the orange red of the sumac leaves, the appearance of Orion in the night sky and sweet, cool morning breezes – take to the stage, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs and the park team welcome new and returning visitors from near and far and park neighbors who are immersing themselves in the splendor. Jacobs shares that this welcome includes a “Meet and Greet” scheduled for October 2nd at the park visitor center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jacobs also explains that the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP) will “take to the center stage” during the October 2nd get- together and showcase its support for park programs and activities and its future plans.
The Friends of Cumberland Gap NHP Chairman John Brown enthusiastically explains “that during the Meet and Greet, the Friends will introduce new board members Beth Barton and Dana Greene of Middlesboro, KY and Mona Dotson of Harrogate, TN. These three are ardent supporters of their national park and their energy and diverse talents will add a new dimension to the group.”
Brown further elaborates that the Friends Group has come a long way since its unveiling during the park’s 50th anniversary celebration on July 4th, 2009. “For several years, we were indeed in the infancy stage. But in June 2014, we took a giant step and hosted our first large fund raiser – the showing of Kent Masterson Brown’s documentary ‘Daniel Boone and the Opening of the American West.’ Needless to say, we were indeed a bit nervous as we prepared for that gala evening which included a dinner. But as 80 folks arrived smiling and adorned in tuxedos and evening gowns, we relaxed and were elated!”
In the spring of 2015, the Friends of Cumberland Gap NHP supported the park’s “Back the B.E.A.R.S. – Be Educated and Responsible Stewards.” This two day educational event, attended by almost 1400 visitors, including 786 school children, was a “one stop bear fact shopping venue” where visitors had numerous opportunities to connect with black bear experts and learned techniques to avoid bear-people interactions.
Superintendent Jacobs outlines that the Friends Group is now taking a huge leap and supporting park staff in the planning of the April 9th, 10th and 11th, 2016 “An American Memoir: From the Hearts of Our Ancestors…Into the Hands of Our Children.” This three day living history event, on the grounds of the national park visitor center, will include the crème de la crème of living historians portraying the Native Americans, longhunters and pioneers who journeyed through the Gap, the nation’s first doorway to the west. The grand finale of the event will be the unveiling of the American the Beautiful quarter for Kentucky which will feature the Cumberland Gap. The U.S. Mint will be at the park for the coin launch. The April 2016 event also coincides with the year-long celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
Brown explains that the invitation by Jacobs to be part of this signature event is “over the top! Sula Jacobs has shared with us that the park expects at least 15,000 visitors, including 2000 school children!” Brown believes that this event will parallel the excitement exemplified in Middlesboro on July 4th, 1959 when vice President Richard Nixon attended the dedication of the national park. “We really want the local communities to be involved in the April 2016 event. We’re here to support the park, a national park right in our own back yards!”
Additional information on the open house and park events can be obtained by calling the park visitor center at 606-246-1075 or by visiting the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/cuga. For more information on the Friends of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and how to become involved, please visit www.friendsofcumberlandgap.org or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/friendsofcumberlandgap.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s more than 400 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.