Cumberland Gap National Historical Park receives prestigious award

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018

As 2017 drew to a close, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park staff beamed as they gathered around the “Keeper of the Light Award.” The award, an attractive light prism mount similar to those used on sea ferrying vessels in the 1800s, was presented to park staff for the April 2016 “An American Memoir: From the Hearts of Our Ancestors….Into the Hands of Our Children.” Over 10,000 attended events associated with this signature National Park Service Centennial celebration. Through a series of related venues over the course of three days, visitors were exposed to the centuries-long Cumberland Gap story and engaged by telling their own stories as they sampled a variety of National Park Service experiences. The culminating event saw 2,500 students sworn in as Junior Rangers when the United States Mint launched the America the Beautiful quarter for Kentucky honoring Cumberland Gap.

Since 2001, the Southeast Region of the National Park Service, which includes almost 70 of the more than 400 national park units, has been presenting the award to a park(s) for its excellence in education which cultivates for visitors understanding and appreciation of national parks. The Keeper of the Light Award is not new to Cumberland Gap. According to Park Ranger Carol Borneman, “We have come full circle! Cumberland Gap was the recipient of the first ever Keeper of the Light Award in 2001 for our hosting in 2000 four major events which reflected upon the pioneering legacy of the area and its rich Appalachian culture. The 2017 presentation was the last, for the Southeast Region award has now gone nationwide as the “Achieving Relevance” awards.” The park also received the award in 2004 for “Within the Shadows of Cumberland Gap,” a Colonial Trade Faire and Frontier Living History exposition and again in 2009 for its “Black Bear Blast” during which black bear experts provided information on how people can share the landscape with this forest denizen. Borneman jubilantly elaborates, “We are indeed very proud for maintaining these standards of excellence throughout the years.”

In 2018, an exciting blend of hikes, campfire programs, concerts, a one-person play, Gap Cave and Hensley Settlement tours, moonlight walks, and hands-on demonstrations will illuminate the theme “The Cumberland Gap – a Legendary Land.” The focal point of the year will be during the Labor Day Weekend when CaveSim, housed in New York, will be brought to the park. CaveSim is the world’s only cave simulator and provides a safe and easy way for visitors of all abilities to become acquainted with caves. The Labor Day weekend will also include the mist netting of bats and “working up the bats” which includes weighing these winged mammals and measuring their forearms. National Park Service personnel will provide visitors easy clues in identifying bat species.

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Additional information on park programs can be obtained by calling 606-248-2817 or through the park’s web site at