Time and the Cumberland Gap

Published 10:13 am Friday, July 5, 2019

By William H. Baker

Contributing Writer

It seems like time is passing by so quickly, doesn’t it? That thought is expressed by all of us, particularly it seems by those of us in the category of senior citizen.

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A reminder came a few days from two sources.

One was from the cartoon character Ziggy whose one-line comments often contain a lesson about life. This one was simply “Memories are illustrations from the storybook of our life.”

The second was a news release from the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. It focused on the significance of tourism to the tri-state area and the economic impact of the park.

When the front-page article appeared in the Middlesboro Daily News, it brought back memories from 60 years ago when the park was officially dedicated.

For those readers living in Middlesboro and the surrounding areas, and for those who worked to bring the attention of the nation to Cumberland Gap in 1959, one wonders what their reaction would be or would have been to the news.

For one thing, the documented economic benefits in the year 2018 totaled $44. 1 million. The number of park visitors in that year totaled 684,191. More than twice as many visitors in one year compared to the estimated 300,000 pioneers who came through the Gap in 35 years between 1775 and 1810. Amazing and important numbers for all of us to consider.

The news release also included recognition of the support of 603 jobs, almost $19 million in labor income, $32.3 million in value added, and $56.4 million in gateway economies surrounding the park.

Considering the economic benefits alongside the popularity of the park for tourists, the future is promising. The attractiveness of the history of the Gap, the natural beauty, vast acreage, innumerable hiking areas, all add up to the reasons why the park is so popular for tourists from across the country and around the world.

In tapping into the memories from 1959, and in looking ahead, I am reminded of how quickly time is passing and how a new generation might find an interest in a series of notes planned for the weeks ahead.

William H. Baker is a native of Claiborne County and former resident of Middlesboro. Email: wbaker@limestone.edu