Edmonson Voice Staff Report:
National Park Service fire managers will conduct the Parkway Barrens Prescribed Fire on approximately 260 acres of land within Mammoth Cave National Park in early March, weather permitting. The prescribed fire will take place along two roadways: the Mammoth Cave Parkway (KY-255) from the Park City entrance to the intersection with Mammoth Cave Road (KY-70) and along Mammoth Cave Road from the Cave City Entrance to the intersection with Mammoth Cave Parkway. All cave tours, roads, and visitor access to Diamond Caverns and the Diamond Caverns RV Resort will remain open during the burn operations, but the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail will be temporarily closed.
The goal of the Parkway Barrens Prescribed Fire is to promote the growth of native species such as Post oaks, native grasses, and various wildflowers in the eastern tall grass prairie vegetation naturally found within this section of the park. The burn will also reduce hazardous forest fuels such as branches, twigs, and logs that have accumulated over the years which will help protect human life and property from more intense wildfires that could feed off excess fuels.
Mammoth Cave National Park will notify the public and local community leaders of the exact date of the burn once it has been officially determined by fire management officials. The plans for this prescribed fire contain a set of parameters which define, among other things, the acceptable weather and fuel conditions under which the fire can be initiated. Prior to implementing the burn, fire managers will evaluate current conditions and will only ignite the fire if all the prescribed conditions are within those parameters that provide for the greatest safety and best smoke management.
Some short-term smoke impacts to the nearby communities and areas directly outside of the park should be expected during the prescribed burn. Travelers on the Mammoth Cave Parkway from the Park City Entrance to Mammoth Cave Road intersection may experience temporary delays depending on burning activities. Any delay should only last a few minutes.
Specially trained wildland firefighters from the National Park Service’s Mississippi River Fire Management Zone, Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, and Mammoth Cave National Park will manage the prescribed fire.