Nestled in Nature

Wesley Scharer runs ahead of his mother, Joyce, to start his journey through the trails at Lost River Cave on April 3.

As COVID-19 fastened its grip on society, many Americans found solace by exploring the hundreds of national parks available across the country. Despite the virus’s presence, national parks like Mammoth Cave have still seen frequent visitors from Kentucky and its neighboring states. While the national parks have been able to adapt and still offer attendees a safe and enjoyable experience, other outdoor facilities featuring nature’s wonder have not been as fortunate.

During the pandemic, Lost River Cave, a staple in Bowling Green’s outdoor scene, has not received any tax funding because it is not a national, state or county park. This, in tandem with an already lower attendance rate due to the pandemic, has spelled trouble for the outdoor spectacle. With everything going virtual, the cave is less apt to have groups from schools or other organizations come through. The cave is known for its hiking trails which are accessible free of cost, but other aspects of the park like cave boat tours and the zip-line ropes course have been closed, and their gift shop saw a drastic decline in sales.

Among the various things to do at Lost River Cave is geocaching, a scavenger-hunt-esque activity in which GPS coordinates lead people to little hidden items. Lifelong Bowling Green resident Danny Bays, who facilitates Lost River’s geocache system, said he was not able to add nearly as many coordinates this year for park visitors due to the restrictions. While this saddened Bays, he said he is still excited for future endeavors within the park.

As vaccines roll out and government restrictions are lifted, a renewed sense of normalcy is set to invigorate the park. Officials hope this draws in their beloved customer base and the park can recoup its financial shortcomings from the past year.