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May 8, 2012

Park Service opens renovated Kentucky Ranger Station

Big South Fork NRRA contributes $25+ million to region

STEARNS —  In anticipation of the summer tourism season, the National Park Service unveiled the newly renovated Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area’s Kentucky Ranger Station with an open house on Friday afternoon.

    Having served primarily as an administrative office for the last several years, the facility received several updates, including new flooring. BSF Superintendent Niki Nicholas also noted that the property outside was landscaped for increased functionality.

    “It was a hard decision to make the change,” Nicholas said of the decision to move the visitor’s center from the Stearns Depot to the Wilburn Ross Highway building. She added that the move should save the park money in the long run.

    The station houses space for law enforcement as well as new Kentucky Facilities Supervisor Kenny Gilreath. A secretary works during the week but come Memorial Day weekend, the station will be open seven days a week through Labor Day.

    The park service has also established a visitor center at the Blue Heron Mining Camp.

    Nicholas added that staff are gearing up for weekend interpretive programs and other projects for the summer. The Park Service has received a grant to host eight high school youths who will be working through the Youth Conservation Corps.

    According to a NPS report released in March, more than 650,000 visitors in 2010 spent $26.6 million in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and adjacent communities. That spending supported some 375 jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky.

    Most of the spending and jobs are related to lodging, food and beverage service (52 percent) followed by other retail (29 percent), entertainment ( 10 percent), gas and local transportation (seven percent), and groceries (two percent).

    Via 394 national parks, local visitor spending added a total of $31 billion to the national economy, up $689 million over 2009.

    The figures are based on an annual analysis conducted by Dr. Daniel Stynes of Michigan State University for the National Park Service. The report is available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/products.cfm#MGM.

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