In April 23 IssueBy John ThompsonNews-Register Reporter
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park welcomed the Department of Parks Commissioner Gerry van der Meer last week, along with Deputy Secretary of Tourism Matt Sawyers and State Parks Marketing Director LaDonna Miller, as they conducted a tour of Kentucky's 17 state resort parks.
The purpose of the visit was to both inform and receive feedback from local government and business leaders impacted by the $11 billion tourism industry in our state. Kentucky State Parks alone help generate $800 million for state businesses, while only receiving $30 million dollars in federal funding, considered "minimal compared to other states," according to Sawyers.
While much of the state park revenues are from conventions, including approximately 50 percent of customers being in-state government employees meeting for training seminars, emphasis was placed on making an inviting, welcoming attraction for local residents. "We operate on the premise that if we can't entice the local customer base to use our facilities and the resources we have, it makes it difficult to provide for people all over the rest of the state, and other states," said van der Meer.
In an effort to make Lake Cumberland State Resort Park more inviting for local group functions, it was encouraged that leeway be given, and sensitivity shown to local church groups and other organizations in order to meet their needs while staying within a budget acceptable in a smaller community; "one of the principles of having a park system is that it reaches out to the community," said van der Meer, "and we have to be able to balance the needs of the community with the need to draw in tourism not only to the parks but to other local business."
The state park is also a favorite destination for authorized day trips of the Russell County School System. The reasons are both educational as well as fitness related. "Right now, our generation has so much structured play," said Sawyers. "That it's important that children have time for unstructured play."
Studies have shown that unstructured play is as important as structured activities like team sports or games with set rules, as unstructured play allows for imagination and creativity. The wide open nature spaces of the state park are perfect for allowing children the unstructured atmosphere to develop their own play, while offering parents a break from enforcing structured activities.
The balance of meeting local needs while bringing in revenues from tourism was also emphasized by committing to good working partnerships with local businesses, as well as the Russell County Tourism Commission. "We partner with the parks a lot," said John Carter, tourism commissioner. "The park is the largest occupancy tax provider for Russell County, and that's very important for us."
Carter would later add that, "This kind of brainstorming into what we can do to help our state park to grow and prosper is important," said Carter, "because it is a big asset here in the county."
Ideas that were discussed that would impact Russell County residents were to offer special deals and discounts to those eating at Lure Lodge, or would want to utilize other park services. This may be accomplished by offering discount cards, available only to Russell County residents, or having specially designed events for local participation. More on these ideas are expected to be forthcoming.
"We continue to try to think of different packages to bring people to this area," Sawyers said. "Bringing people here is a major goal of ours; and serving as a community facility that brings people here is critically important."
The Department of Parks is an agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The Kentucky State Parks operate 17 resort parks and an inn, more than any other state. Each resort park has a full-service lodge and dining room. Most have cottages and recreation activities such as swimming, hiking, golf, nature programming and organized activities for children. This array of accommodations and programs supports their reputation as "the nation's finest."
Research shows that we have the most widely known state brand - Kentucky Unbridled Spirit - in this part of the country.
All 17 resort parks offer free wireless internet access from lodge public areas, lodge rooms and meeting rooms.
They gladly accept Kentucky Unbridled Spirit Gift Cards for payment of lodge room or cottage reservation deposits, but a credit card number is still required. Detailed instructions are provided as you make your online reservation.
Reservations are accepted up to three years to the month in advance for lodges or cottages.
For more information on services and events, you can call the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park at 270-343-3111 or visit www.parks.ky.gov