Witt: A closer look at Fort Booneborough

Published 2:20 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In August 2015, this column revealed some poor conditions at Fort Boonesborough State Park, noting a good many things there had been allowed to deteriorate, possibly to the point of adversely impacting attendance at the park.

Following that column, Rob Minerich invited me to visit the park for a personal guided-tour, an invitation which was accepted with alacrity and a sense that such a tour was a fair way to learn more about the park and the special difficulties Rob and the staff face.

Rob is a most cordial fellow and every member of the staff, mostly those working within the fort itself, expressed pride and enthusiasm in what they do.

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During discussions as the tour through the campgrounds and ancillary spaces and the fort ensued, it became clear the park is operated at a level commensurate with the funds provided by the state, funds which seem to shrink each year as some decision makers at the state level apparently are unable to see the value of our state parks.

During the tour, the pool at the park was shut down because of a broken pump; the pool had been closed the entire summer for lack of funds to replace that pump.

The old bath house, despite being architecturally unique, has fallen on hard times and was no longer being used. Because of its condition, offices have been moved to another building within the park and it seems unlikely at this point there will ever be sufficient money from the state to rehabilitate the building.

But positive things are happening at the park.

Several improvements have been made in the playground area which include some new equipment and a new safer mulch; new pumps have been added to the swimming pool making it ready for the summer of 2017; all cookout grills in the park have been replaced with new ones; the mini-golf course has been resurfaced and two new obstacles added; both hiking trail bridges have been completely rebuilt; a new efficient ultraviolet wastewater treatment plant has been built in the campground area out of sight and the old one in the middle of the campground has been removed; an energy-saving project has been completed which provides more efficient use of electricity and water, and the campground bathhouses and recreation hall will be remodeled in the near future.

In addition, Fort Boonesborough has been recognized as the No. 1 campground in the Kentucky State Park system, operated by Jim Winburn, and the Annual Car Show weekend and Halloween Fest are typically sold out a full year in advance.

On a recent visit, the beach area seemed much cleaner than before despite the fact there is still some foliage growing in the sand area that would not have been there many years ago, and the steps down to the beach are still somewhat dangerous, missing handrails.

But all change cannot take place in an instant of time, and the improvements have occurred in those areas which receive the most use from the public.

Perhaps, eventually, the beach will return to a modicum of its glory days when it was flush with people on the weekends, basking in the summer sun on one of the rare light sand beaches in the interior of the U.S.

For now, congratulations to Rob and his staff for the work they are doing to make the park a sought-after destination for people from all around the country.