Hensley Settlement is one of the many gems at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, but rains and stormy weather have damaged the visitor access road.
According to CGNHP Ranger Carol Borneman, a park volunteer was giving a tour when they noticed a road slide near Shillalah Falls. The volunteer backed up the van and reported the slide to the park staff and maintenance crew.
“They actually radioed down to us to let us know that the road was impassible, but all of the visitors were safe, so there was nothing wrong with that,” said Borneman.
Hensley Settlement tours and events like the Shooting Star Spectacular are canceled for the remainder of the season. The Hensley-Gibbons graveside memorial in August has been moved to Bartlett Park.
There were no tours pre-paid for the season, so no refunds were necessary. Visitors who had made reservations to visit Hensley Settlement have been notified and contacted of the closure.
“That’s why we always tell people just to pay when they get here. Even if it’s just a thunderstorm, we have to cancel a tour because we’re just big lightning rods up there with the open space,” said Borneman.
The park will be applying for emergency funding. After approval, the construction will have to be contracted and heavy equipment moved in.
“That will be a very slow moving process just because that road is so unstable,” said Borneman.
A contractor has been working with CGNHP management to determine a cost for the repairs.
“It’s definitely going to be a 6-figure number — maybe well over $2 to $300,000 to repair, but hopefully by tomorrow we should have a good idea of how much it’s going to be,” said Borneman.
Several other opportunities remain to see at Hensley Settlement, including a hiking trail or a virtual tour available at www.nps.gov/cuga.
For more information, contact park staff at 606-246-1075.
Kelsey Gerhardt may be reached at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.