Cumberland Falls thrives, despite tornado damage
The July 18 commentary, "Fix up Cumberland Falls State Park; State has allowed it to deteriorate," left the incorrect impression that the entire park was in disarray. Writer Luke Keith gave a very incomplete picture of the situation at the park. The only specific criticism he mentioned was that there were still many downed trees at the park from a tornado that occurred there in 2008.
The Department of Parks made repairs that were necessary for our guests' safety and convenience at Cumberland Falls. We cleared roads and trails and carried out other work at Cumberland Falls in the aftermath of the tornado. More than 100 volunteers worked at the park to help us clean up and restore operations.
But, admittedly, some things such as downed trees in the forests are lower on the priority list because we have limited funds and many other pressing needs.
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Prior to the tornado, the lodge rooms, gift shop, visitor center and parking near the falls were renovated in 2005 and 2006. Over the last five years, the state has spent more than $4 million at the park.
It continues to be among our most popular parks and is often filled with overnight guests. We take great pride in this park and its staff. The writer incorrectly claimed the number of visitors had declined. The fact is, park occupancy has remained level and revenues have increased.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park has not been allowed to deteriorate. It's a great park and we're proud to have thousands of guests visit this landmark.
Gerry van der Meer
Commissioner, Kentucky State Parks
Forest faces challenges
In his column on Cumberland Falls State Park, Luke Keith asserts that visitation is down in the park, partly due to the "poorly maintained Daniel Boone National Forest" that sits along the roadways to Cumberland Falls.
This is an area of public land that was decimated twice — once from a Southern Pine Beetle infestation that impacted over 100,000 acres of national forest land, followed by the tornado that also impacted this area.
In both situations, the Forest Service used available resources to protect critical resources and remove hazardous trees along the roadways and trails. Public safety was our No. 1 concern.
We take pride in the resources and facilities we manage across 708,000 acres in 21 counties. Questions about our management can be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank R. Beum
Forest Supervisor, Daniel Boone National Forest
Park full of history
I do not totally agree with writer Luke Keith's July 18 commentary on Cumberland Falls State Park, but he does point out some improvements that need to be made in the park.
I would like to share of bit of history about Cumberland Falls.
The Cumberland Falls Station depot was a medium-size building with a passenger waiting room, ticket agent office, benches outside for people to sit. A brick outhouse (men and women's toilet) was just across the tracks and a little north of the depot. Conductors on the passenger trains would call "All out for Cumberland Falls!" On the weekends and holidays, the trains would be crowded with people, mostly from Cincinnati.
My grandfather, Pleasant Patrick "Tobe" Walker, provided a taxi service from the station to the falls. He had teams of horses or mules pulling wagons with the people sitting on planks nailed inside for seats.
The jog was 10 to 12 miles. He also provided free food and drink at the refreshment stop halfway between Parkers Lake and the falls.
Cumberland Falls' history is important to this state and to all Kentuckians.
Jimmie W. Green
Don't ignore black suicide
Four suicides of African-American men in Lexington in the last year suggest a disturbing trend that speaks of our failure as a community to treat suicide and its prevention as a serious public health issue that deserves our collective attention.
Suicide has traditionally been thought of as a concern of the white community. Whites in Kentucky commit suicide at twice the rate of blacks (14.6 per 100,000 versus 7 per 100,000 from 1999 to 2005.)
Perhaps for that reason, suicide prevention education is absent or not a high priority in the African-American community. Nor is early detection of personal and community issues that lead black males to take their own lives.
The stigma of suicide among families in general, and black families in particular, remains a troubling obstacle to family intervention.
Many are not seeking or receiving medical care, often because of the absence of community-based resources.
With the average cost of medical care per case of self-inflicted injury in Kentucky nearing $9,000, this costly and tragic neglect of a public health issue must be addressed.
As an African-American and former Lexington resident who understands the tragic impact of suicide on our families, I appeal to public health professions to increase investment in suicide prevention and family intervention
Fix worst nursing homes
Congratulations on the recent series on nursing homes. The reports accurately reflect the complexity of the industry and the inadequate, underfunded regulatory controls and support needed to ensure that every resident of a nursing home is cared for with compassion and skill.
The investigative reporters who have worked on this series deserve public recognition for the depth and breadth of their work. Thank you.
While there are a number of exemplary homes in Kentucky that provide excellent care, there are many more badly in need of help to raise the standard of care. The examples provided in the articles represent the types of problems that occur when homes are inadequately staffed and that staff is not well trained. It is not the whole picture, but is certainly a large piece of the picture.
Too often we take an all-or-nothing position: Either nursing homes are fine and all is well, or every home is a hell hole and all must be avoided.
These extreme positions do nothing to move us toward a collaboration between the players — government, industry and consumer — to solve the myriad of problems besetting this industry. There are proven solutions out there and we must implement them.
I urge Gov. Steve Beshear to appoint a citizens' task force to pursue practical solutions to the serious problems raised in the newspaper series. We simply must find a way to help faltering nursing homes. We each may well find ourselves in one of them one day.
Vice President. Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards
Tribute to UK Theatre
The July 11 arts section profiled Trish and Ellie Clark, the mother and daughter duo of Summerfest, and Ed Monaghan, the UCLA instructor who also teaches here in the U.S. Performing Arts Program. As one of their former professors, I read these stories with great pleasure and fond memories of their time in my classes.
These stories made me think about other students like Sully White, Summerfest director, Alberta "Bert" Labrillazo of SCAPA and Dunbar's Tonya Hougland Merritt, each of them dedicated teachers and directors.
I take pride in their achievements as well as those of former students who now work on the national scene: Todd Lacy, Disney associate producer (The Lion King); Elisabeth Ford, Broadway house manager (Wicked); Matt Fletcher, Los Angeles talent agent; Stacey Zaloga, Broadway stage manager (Shrek the Musical); Tom Burch, Chicago set designer (Goodman Theatre); and Angel Laketa Moore, TV and film actor (ER, Ghost Rider), among others.
I am especially proud of those who continue the University of Kentucky tradition of excellence in theater education, especially Deborah Martin, head of theater at Berea College.
I wish I could take credit for my students' accomplishments. But just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire department to educate theater students. As the stories demonstrate, and as my abbreviated list affirms (with apologies to all I left out), UK's Department of Theatre sets the stage for success, and I feel fortunate to be some small part of it.
Associate Professor, UK Theatre
Kagan critique wrong
In a July 24 commentary, Kent Ostrander of the Family Foundation was extremely critical of Elena Kagan's nomination for the Supreme Court.
To justify this, he said that Kagan, as Harvard Law School dean, threw the military recruiters off the Harvard University campus. Not true.
This issue was repeatedly discussed during Kagan's confirmation hearing in the Senate.
Harvard did not allow the military to recruit through the law school's career services facility because of the military's bigoted don't-ask-don't-tell policy, but the school allowed the military to recruit through campus military organizations. The number of military recruits actually increased.
If Ostrander can't get his facts straight on something as well-documented as this, it makes you think that the rest of his "Horror on the high court" piece was equally bogus.
Calipari's political right
Have we really reached the point at which we want our public figures to lack political conviction?
Or worse yet, have political conviction, but fail to act upon it? What's with the Hatfield and McCoy mind-set, Kentuckians? When did we forget that difference, debate and dissension are the lifeblood of democracy?
Failure to tolerate our differences of opinion, even embrace them, will only lead us into the hands of tyranny. Coach John Calipari should be applauded for setting a fine example of civic engagement by considering hosting a political fund-raiser.
Calipari's religious affiliation does not represent everyone in this state, either. Shall we ask him to cease acting on his spiritual convictions as well? It makes just about as much sense. Then we could have a basketball coach with no convictions at all.
You know how well that works. If I were Calipari, this kind of provincial behavior would send me hunting for a job in more tolerant waters.
New cause for coach
I believe Coach John Calipari is right on with his instinct to delve into Kentucky politics.
He is an inspiring leader and compassionate humanitarian. The Hoops for Haiti program demonstrated what a strong positive influence he can have. Coach Cal should now focus his leadership by joining the movement to end mountaintop removal coal mining.
It is his fans in Eastern Kentucky and across the state who lose our jobs, our water, our social and economic well-being — not to mention the very mountains God created — to this type of mining.
A good start would be to preserve the name of Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge and reject the notion our Cats can be bought by Big Coal, the very entity which is the biggest threat to the well-being of the Big Blue Nation.