Cumberland Gap National Historical Park closed until Further Notice amid COVID 19 threat
From The Cumberland Gap National Park -
Effective Monday, March 30, 2020 at noon, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will be closed to all park visitors until further notice to support federal, state, and local efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This closure includes all park trails, the Pinnacle Road and Overlook, the Visitor Center and Parking Area, all restrooms, the Wilderness Road Campground and Picnic Area, the Bartlett Park Road and Picnic Area, the Sugar Run Picnic Area, the Civic Park Picnic Area, and all backcountry campsites. Law enforcement rangers continue to patrol, monitor the park, and enforce all rules. KY Co Hwy 988, US 25E through the Cumberland Gap Highway Tunnel, and VA Hwy 58 through the park will remain accessible to traffic. “During this pandemic, this park closure is necessary to ensure that visitor, employee, volunteer and park partner lives are not put at further risk,” states Park Superintendent Charles Sellars. “Visitors need to think hard about the trickle-down effect of their ‘All I’m doing is going out for a hike,’” emphasizes Sellars. “If a visitor were injured, the park’s limited staffing would literally mean hours for a rescue. Once a rescue is initiated, the park’s emergency response personnel would be at high risk due to the close proximity required to stabilize the visitor and also during the carry out. An injured visitor puts additional strain on medical personnel at hospitals already dealing with the novel corona virus.” Personal protective equipment (PPE) which the park is having to purchase to keep park members safe as they perform routine duties is also placing an additional burden on the dwindling PPE supplies required at hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the US. Though rain has been frequent, the recent high temperatures and high winds already have fire danger moving into higher categories. Fire danger substantially increases when visitors are in the park. “All of our resources are engaged in our efforts with the COVID-19 response. At this time, we would not want to be doing double duty in fighting a preventable wildland fire,” says Sellars. Updates are being posted to the park’s website www.nps.gov/cuga and www.facebook.com/CumberlandGapNHP/. The park’s website also has a variety of ways to explore the park via an “armchair visit.” Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.