The new executive director of Somerset-Pulaski Convention and Visitors Bureau said record high levels of Lake Cumberland in late February and early March have not done much damage to recreational areas and she expects campers to find accommodations during this summer's tourism season.
Michelle Allen, who succeeded retiring Carolyn Mounce late last summer, said Waitsboro Recreation Area, where camping spots may be closed until just before Labor Day, has been worrisome " ...but the Corps has notified campers of alternate camping spaces." She said Pulaski County Park is up and going, having recovered well from high water. General Burnside Island State Park was closed for a time when water covered the causeway leading to the island but the park itself apparently wasn't affected by flooding.
Somerset and Pulaski County attract more than 1.5 million tourists who spend nearly $150 million a year. Lake Cumberland is the main draw but there are also the annual Master Musician's Festival, Somernites Cruise car show, the largest monthly car show in the state; and the Battle of Mill Springs with its museum at Nancy where soon will be a national park.
Cooperation is Allen's keyword for the upcoming recreational season. "We're working more closely with Somerset and Burnside to promote tourism this year ... that's the thing we're doing differently," Allen said.
Lake Cumberland is back to normal. This is the sixth year of normal operation following eight years of low levels during rehabilitation of 68-year-old Wolf Creek Dam. Heavy rains in February pushed the lake to an all-time high -- four feet higher than it has ever been, inundating several camping areas.
However, recreational news is becoming more optimistic as summer approaches. Michael Lapina, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Eastern Kentucky Area operations manager, said he anticipates opening Fishing Creek Recreation Area "before Memorial Day." Earlier projections by the Corps were that Fishing Creek Recreation Area near Nancy might not open until July and Waitsboro Recreation Area near Burnside wouldn't open until just before Labor Day.
Lapina wouldn't guess an opening date at Waitsboro because of considerable site erosion and broken water lines. He said work is currently being done on the electrical system at Fishing Creek and then it will be done at Waitsboro.
Bee Rock Campground which straddles the Rockcastle River, with camping sites along the shore on both sides in Pulaski and Laurel counties, will not open until spring 2020, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. Backwater from high levels of Lake Cumberland raised the Rockcastle River creating a record flood that devastated the campground, boat ramp and trails in the area.
Good news is that debris has been removed from both Waitsboro and Fishing Creek recreation areas and boat launching ramps are open at both places, according to Lapina. The ramp at Waitsboro Recreation Area is popular among fisherman and recreational boaters alike because of its ease of access to Lake Cumberland and close proximity to both the city of Somerset and major access roads U.S. 27 and Ky. 80.