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Stimulus funds will speed upgrades at Mammoth Cave Park

MAMMOTH CAVE — Mammoth Cave National Park is getting more than $9 million in stimulus money that will accelerate an upgrade to its aging visitors center.

Park officials said the money will pay for the second phase of the construction on the 45-year-old facility. It includes an exhibit area, bookstore, employee offices and library. The money will also pay for another smaller project and cleaning up debris from the January ice storm.

The funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allow the work on the visitors center to be finished three years ahead of schedule. It will cost an estimated $8.3 million.

"Especially for the visitor center, this funding comes at a critical point," Mammoth Cave Superintendent Patrick Reed said. "With Recovery Act funding, we can continue construction, instead of waiting years for the needed funds to accrue from cave tour tickets and campground fees."

The first phase, which includes a new information lobby and ticket-sales area, is expected to be done in the summer.

The exhibit space being built with the stimulus money will "tell the story of Mammoth Cave geologically, historically and biologically," said Mike Adams, chief of interpretation and visitors services.

"There will be quite a few artifacts, including some prehistoric artifacts from American Indian explorers 4,000 years ago, some from 19th century tour guides and objects used by the early Cave Research Foundation exploration in the 1970s," Adams said.

He said work should begin later this year.

Stimulus money also went to three other National Park properties in Kentucky: $458,000 to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park; $369,000 to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park; and $15,000 to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

The funds are part of $750 million in stimulus funding for nearly 800 projects in the National Park Service.

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