Vacation wonderland in Pulaski County and the Lake Cumberland area is getting off to a delayed start in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-operated recreational areas along the lake, including the popular Waitsboro Recreation Area near Burnside and Fishing Creek Recreation Area near Nancy, are currently closed, except for boat ramps.
Jonathan Friedman, Resource Manager, Lake Cumberland Wolf Creek Dam, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the Corps internally is considering a possible opening of recreational areas in early May. Questions are, he said, " ... can we open safely? When we open restrooms and start collecting fees can we maintain social distancing?"
Friedman said fishermen can still access the popular trout fishing area in tailwaters of the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam, and the man-made Hatchery Creek flowing from Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. Hatchery Creek was created and operated by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
After being open for a short period, the 120-spot campground at General Burnside Island State Park closed April 3 at directions from the state, and the golf course is open to walkers only; no golf carts allowed. Current situation at state parks is in effect through April 30, said Steve Lutz, golf professional at the state park.
Golf courses at state parks have taken precautions during the outbreak. Those steps include such things as closing pro shops to drive-through service only, halting the use of carts and spacing tee times 20 minutes apart. The golf courses have removed bunker rakes, and made modifications to the flagsticks to help eliminate spreading of the virus.
Most state park grounds are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This includes hiking trails, boat ramps, equine trails and picnic areas. Group and park events are cancelled through May 15. Natural Bridge and Cumberland Falls state resort parks are completely closed.
Kim Norfleet, manager of Pulaski County Park, said the county-operated park is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for hikers and fishermen. The camping area is closed.
Goal of the U.S. Forest Service is to reopen Bee Rock Campground for the 2021 camping season. Record high levels of Lake Cumberland early last spring backed up the Rockcastle River and did extreme damage to much of the campground that straddles the Pulaski-Laurel County line near Mt. Victory. The campground was closed last summer and will not be open this coming summer.
Jason Nedlow, ranger at the Forest Service's London District, said " ... we've got people working there (Bee Rock) now. He said the Forest Service has obtained a grant of several hundred thousand dollars to repair damages to Old Sublimity Bridge, the historic span across Rockcastle river damaged by last year's record flooding.
Burnside Marina is following state guidelines during the pandemic emergency. "You cannot enter our store ... we have a limited staff," said a spokesperson who requested anonymity. "Groups cannot gather at the marina," she said.
However, a person with a boat moored at the Burnside Marina can access their boat. "Fishermen can use our boat ramp to get on the lake," the spokesperson said.
She pointed out if a person from Ohio " ... crossing a state line to get here must quarantine for 14 days," according to Gov. Beshear's guidelines."
J.D. Hamilton, owner of Lee's Ford Resort Marina, says the Ship Store at the marina is closed, but his offices are staffed and boaters can access their boats and be assisted at a window situated so social distancing can be maintained. Harbor Restaurant at Lee's Ford is closed. Hamilton noted persons crossing the Ohio River to come to Lake Cumberland must be quarantined, according to state guidelines " ... but we have a lot of customers from Kentucky." Hamilton concedes the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown of small businesses is adversely affecting the recreational industry.