Guardians of the Gap host CGNP Superintendent Lisa Baldwin

Published 5:22 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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By Jay Compton

Middlesboro News

Guardians of the Gap hosted a meet and greet with Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Superintendent Lisa Baldwin on Sunday afternoon at the Olde Church events center.

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Baldwin came to Cumberland Gap last May after spending the previous four years as the superintendent at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico. She said the decision to move here was because of a personal connection to the area.

“My mom grew up in Kentucky. I had never been to this area and didn’t know a lot about it, but when this job came open and I did some research it seemed like a good opportunity for me to come out and try something new,” she said. “New park, new challenges. This park is amazing and beautiful — I saw the pictures online and thought ‘that’s where I want to be.’ I had that family connection that I wanted to explore and connect with, the stars aligned and I was lucky enough that they offered me the job and I was smart enough to say yes.”

Refreshments were available and a stream of guests dropped by to speak with Baldwin. She said getting out and meeting people was one of the best parts of her job.

“It’s promoting the park which is the thing that I love to do. For me to connect with people in the community around the park is really important,” Baldwin said. “I want  to make sure people know that I’m here and my door is open. My team and I live in this community and we’re part of this community. We’re here to support each other and as a park we want to be a good neighbor.”

Baldwin said the park has started working on a new strategic plan to determine where the park is headed over the next five years.

“New leadership, coming out of the pandemic — now we’ve had time to take a breath and figure things out. We’re inviting a lot of people along on that journey with us from the surrounding communities. That’s going to  give us some needed direction in the post-pandemic world and how we’re going to function in that world,” she said.

One exciting development at the park is the acquisition of Fern Lake by The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund. The National Park Service is in process of making the 712 acre property part of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

“The NGOs have purchased it and we’re working with them to finalize that acquisition for the park system and that will take some time to get worked out,” Baldwin said. “We’ve put in some funding requests for a concept design plan and we’re hoping that will all align and we can get the property and get that development concept planning done. The things we’ll be talking about in our strategic plan are both immediate and five years out so Fern Lake will have a piece in that as well.”

Baldwin said Cumberland Gap was a stunningly beautiful and very complex park. She praised the team she works with for their knowledge and passion about the area.

“The team here is hands down one of the best I have worked with. They are passionate about the park, they know everything about the park, they get along really well, they support each other 

and there is just a lot of talent and enthusiasm and passion and expertise. I’m very honored to be a part of that team,” she said. 

Baldwin invites everyone to visit the park’s visitor center or explore some of the 85 miles of trails the park offers. For more information call 606-248-2817 or visit