Moriah Peterson, Edmonson Voice, story and photos:
Mammoth Cave’s Historic Tour has been vastly remodeled in a two year $5.8 million-dollar project. New walking pavers, concrete steps, handrails and lint guards have been added for safety while preserving the beauty and integrity of the cave.
As visitors near the entrance of Mammoth Cave’s Historic Tour, they are greeted by nature’s own air-conditioning, a real treat on a hot summer day. This Historic tour is a two-mile, two-hour adventure filled with beauty and history. Visitors will see preserved mines that were used during the war of 1812 and signatures dating back to the 1850’s, some of which are from musicians who once played in the cave. While touring the cave, guests will use original steps from the 1930’s along with newly poured concrete ones. Fat Man’s Misery and The Bottomless Pit are two amazing sites to be seen and discovered.
The project was awarded to the Tradesmen Group based out of Ohio and year one work began on 09/21/2015. A 200ft air shaft that had been closed since the 70’s was reopened for the purpose of bringing material down into the cave. A giant crane was brought in to lower material into the cave and because of the logistics of moving this material, park personnel said it was approximately eight times more expensive than work on the surface. During year two, material was moved into the cave by stairway as well due to the restriction of Fat Man’s Misery.
Nearly 11,000 pavers replaced the old worn, wooden boardwalk which creates a more natural look and is expected to reduce noise as visitors explore the cave. Over 13,000 five-gallon buckets were used for concrete, with each bucket weighing approximately 50lbs. Concrete was mixed on sight in three different areas of the cave. The mixing stations were inside of tents and all debris from cutting wood and mixing concrete was controlled by HEPA filters. Zip lines were constructed to guide pavers and buckets to their destination within the cave. Preservation of the cave was top priority and no gas tools were used inside the cave during this project. Lint guards were built to keep everything and everyone in the right areas.
Sarah Craighead, Superintendent of Mammoth Cave, said “The historic section of the cave has always been a favorite, due to seeing evidence of people in the cave." Craighead said cave staff is excited to provide a safe way for visitors to experience all the history Mammoth Cave offers.
A great deal of design and ingenuity went into the massive and difficult project. Asset manager Scott Powell said that moving materials into the cave was indeed the most difficult task cave that construction personnel had to manage.
Year one work for the project began in September of 2015 and was completed May 25th of 2016, while year two work began on September 8th of 2016 and was completed on April 13th of 2017. These updates are expected to last 50 years or more and the new and improved Historic tour is now up and running.
While this project is finished, several new lighting projects at Mammoth Cave will begin within the next few weeks.
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