Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to one of the great national parks in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, located southeastern Kentucky, near Middlesboro. The park will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.
In the 1920s, the idea of creating the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was formed, and after 30 years of planning and hard work, the park was finished and dedicated, 50 years ago this coming July.
The park will hold several special events in July celebrating the anniversary of the historic dedication, including the gathering of oral histories from people who were present during the creation, early days, and dedication of the park.
At the time of the dedication, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park included 20,184 acres--10,679 in Kentucky, 7,478 in Virginia, and 2,027 in Tennessee. Until 1980, it was the largest historical park in the country. It is estimated that more than 1 million people will visit the park this year.
Efforts have been made by the National Park Service since 1997 to prevent surface coal mining in the area surrounding Fern Lake. In cooperation with my friend in the House, Congressman Hal Rogers, we were able to pass legislation that authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire Fern Lake and the surrounding watershed to preserve this natural resource.
I value the importance of this park and have consistently secured funds to help acquire and preserve the lake. Located just southeast of Middlesboro, Fern Lake serves as the primary water source for the community and is visible from the Pinnacle Overlook, which is a popular visitor attraction at the Cumberland Gap National Park.
This park shows the importance Kentuckians place on our natural environment, and I applaud the work of the individuals who helped make this park a reality and those who continue to safeguard its natural beauty for many generations to come.
Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to join with me in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of one of our Nation's most beautiful historical parks.