I used to go to Mammoth Cave all the time when I lived in Louisville, Just a shot down 65 and there you are: a big hole in the ground. But a beautiful place. Since I moved back to Kentucky I have not been and there's a reason. I am claustrophobic and when I was younger I wanted to be "macho man" and not show my fears. So, into Fat Man's Alley I would go, practically chocking on my rapid heart beat.

Well, now I am older and I don't do much of what I don't want to do. But, I am saddened to hear the cave is missing out on valuable funds to keep it running smoothly.

According to the folks at Kentucky News Connection, the budget tug-of-war in Washington is damaging the National Park System. The National Parks Conservation Association estimates the 16-day government shutdown in October already cost $30 million a day system-wide.

Well, that hit Mammoth Cave National Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area pretty hard. And the neighboring communities suffered financial loss as well. .

NPCA's Southeast regional director, Don Barger, said,  "In the state of Kentucky alone, based on the normal October averages for visitation, there were over 5,000 visitors a day that had to be turned away from national parks due to the shutdown," he said.

The deadline for the bipartisan congressional committee working to reach a budget agreement that includes National Park Service funding is December 13.

Greg Davis, who oversees park concessions at Mammoth Cave, characterized the shutdown as "devastating," hitting at the peak of that park's fall season. He said running the park's hotel, cottages, camp store, restaurants, gift shops and bus transportation was already a "marginal" operation at best.

"In sales, that hit us for about $250,000, you know, $250,000 on top of the sequester that already was going to cost us in excess of $300,000," he said. "So, when you accumulate everything up, it just affects you."

Hopefully, the powers that be -- us that elected our reps in Washington - will figure out a way to get this money issue resolved.  Kentucky's parks needs it.

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