Pine Mountain State Park celebrates 90 years of public service

ctruman@herald-leader.comAugust 2, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    Pine Mountain State Resort Park 90th anniversary celebration

    What: Dinner, music and 20-minute archival film, Civilian Conservation Corps in Pine Mountain State Park (1938), presented by Appalshop

    When: 5 p.m. Aug. 9

    Where: C.V. Whitney Convention Center in Pine Mountain State Resort Park.

    Tickets: $25, call 1-800-325-1712 for reservations.

    Online: parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/pine-mountain/

Pineville's Pine Mountain State Park, Kentucky's first state park, was originally named Cumberland State Park.

The name didn't last. The park did.

When Cumberland Falls State Park opened in Corbin, the Pineville park changed its name to avoid confusion. That doesn't necessarily fix the confusion between Cumberland Falls State Park and Cumberland Gap National Park in Ewing, Va., but at least Pine Mountain is not included in whatever mixups occur.

Pine Mountain, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this month, is noted for its array of hiking trails — from easy to challenging — and for its variety of natural features, notably Chained Rock. Its 18-hole Wasioto Winds Golf Course — Wasioto means "valley of the deer" — bring a variety of in- and out-of-state tourists to the park and its lodge and cabins each year.

The annual Mountain Laurel festival, featuring a young Kentucky woman being named festival queen, has been held at Pine Mountain since 1933.

Chained Rock is perhaps the best-known outlook at the park. It's a boulder with a chain attached, allegedly to keep it from falling into the town of Pineville below.

A column from the 1977 Pineville Sun attributed to Paul Greene said that the Pikeville Kiwanis Club decided in 1933 to chain the rock that was "hanging menacingly" over the town. The chain is 137 feet long and weighs 1.5 tons. Each link weighs 4.5 pounds.

Green's column concluded that once the chain was in place, "We can sleep the quiet sleep of those who are unafraid."

The Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era New Deal jobs program that put men to work building civic structures, built the lodge, with its expanses of stone and wood. In addition to planting trees, the CCC volunteers — all young men — built more than 800 parks and upgraded others. The CCC also built roads.

The CCC, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had considered a "civilian army," was disbanded in 1942. Appalshop, the Appalachian arts and education center in Whitesburg, has a rare silent black-and-white 1938 movie of the CCC in its camp near Pineville. That film will be shown during an Aug. 9 dinner and celebration.

The film was donated to Appalshop by Pineville resident Tim Cornett, according to Caroline Rubens, an archivist with Appalshop.

"If he hadn't taken the film, it probably would have not survived," Rubens said. "We were pretty lucky that this film was in such good condition when it was given to us."

The film was shot by a park superintendent and showed a different view of the CCC than the more promotional films distributed by the government. The film shows construction of a bridge and some of the cutting of stone for the Laurel Cove amphitheater.

"The film really gives you a sense of the long, hard hours these guys were working in the sun, the grueling work that they did, and the cutting of the native sandstone, the mixing and transporting of concrete," Rubens said.

The work done by the CCC crews continues to be on daily display for park visitors.

"We get the nature enthusiasts because the national park is close to us," said Rita Jackson-Edmonson, Pine Mountain's park manager, who started at the park's front desk and worked her way up. "We get weddings and family reunions. The people that return year after year, the majority of them are nature enthusiasts, or people that are tied to the community."

Jackson-Edmonson, a graduate of Bell County High School who attended Southeast Community College and Union College, had intended to be a schoolteacher but decided she liked working at the park more: "The park has felt like part of my family for a long time."

She means that both literally and figuratively: Her grandfather, the late Gillis Jackson, was park superintendent in the 1960s. Various family members have worked at the park.

"We're in a small community, so everybody has ties to the park," Jackson-Edmonson said.

The park's trails include the 1⁄3-mile Chained Rock Trail, the Living Stairway Trail and the Laurel Cove Trail, which is described on the park's website as being so challenging that some groups of hikers take extraordinary measures, parking cars at both the bottom and the top, then hiking downhill. Once at the trail's lower outlet, they drive back up to the top for the other car.

Jackson-Edmonson's favorite hike is the Clear Creek Trail, which is a flat and level trail made from an old railway route that once serviced coal-mining operations. The rails were taken up in the 1980s.

"I just like the old railroad tunnel," Jackson-Edmonson said.

Jackson-Edmonson said that even though the park was built under a New Deal job recovery program like no other program before it, its future could be just as innovative.

"The park was originally started for economic development, and I think Pine Mountain has something great to offer with the setting that we have."

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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