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Mammoth Cave added $62 million to local economy last year
 Caroline Eggers  / 

Visitors to Mammoth Cave National Park spent $45 million last year, helping support nearly 600 local jobs and generate $61.6 million into nearby economies, according to a new National Park Service report.

“It’s always just good to see how the park is affecting the local community,” said Molly Schroer, spokeswoman for Mammoth Cave National Park.

And the nearby communities also give back to the park. “We benefit from them. They can provide a lot of things that we can’t,” Schroer said.

Mammoth Cave sits within Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties. Lodging expenses, restaurants and nearby recreation industries create economic activity in these “gateway” communities, which include Brownsville, Horse Cave, Cave City, Park City and Bowling Green.

Sandra Wilson, executive director of Horse Cave-Hart County Tourism Commission and president of the Caveland Marketing Association, described Mammoth Cave as the “anchor” in the region.

“Just for us to be on the fringes of Mammoth Cave is important, because we can pull visitors coming through our area. That in itself is a real boon to our economy,” Wilson said.

In her roles, Wilson helps coordinate efforts between the greater cave community’s various tourism and chamber boards to promote tourism both inside and outside the park. The collaboration also includes park staff.

“We work closely with Mammoth Cave. They participate in our monthly meetings,” Wilson said. “The working relationship seems to be improving daily.”

The commission recently worked with the park to connect trails inside and outside the park.

About a month ago, Horse Cave and Cave City became certified Kentucky Trail Towns as a result of the partnership. Brownsville and Park City are applying for the certification, too.

The commission also helped create a Traveler Information Center inside the Park Visitor Center and helps staff the center about 1,400 hours throughout the year.

“Most visitors know little about what’s outside the park. That has allowed us to share everything about the region and encourage them to visit other places and stay longer,” Wilson said.

Greg Davis, executive director of the Cave City Tourist and Convention Commission, similarly described his community as a park gateway.

“We’re the main exit off of (Interstate) 65. That means everything to us,” Davis said. “The traffic getting off the interstate is why we have the motels, restaurants and attractions.

“Any appropriations to the park for additional cave tours and services would be appreciated not only by the park but also the surrounding area.”

Ron Bunch, president and CEO of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, described Mammoth Cave as a big asset to the community.

“Certainly our business base benefits from traveling tourism in the region,” Bunch said.

Park tourism varies year to year. Annually, the park attracts 500,000 people from around the globe.

There were higher numbers in the past two years for the 2017 solar eclipse and for the 2016 celebration of the National Park Service centennial – the latter helped provide $68 million in economic output, nearly $50 million in visitor spending and 764 jobs.

Thus far this year, visitation numbers have been down due to the government shutdown, which closed the park for about four weeks in January. But Schroer expressed optimism for the park’s ability to “bounce back.”

“We’re looking forward to a good year to come,” Schroer said.

For the full report, which was authored by economists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, visit

Riverview golf course improvements on track for fall completion
 Emily Zantow  / 

Renovations at the Golf Course at Riverview, including building a driving range and a pay-to-play 18-hole disc golf course, are on track for completion this year.

The projects began in late March and are slated to be completed this fall.

“Obviously, if we’re trying to grow the game of golf, what better way (than) to have a driving range and a nine-hole course neighboring each other,” city Parks and Recreation Director Brent Belcher said.

After months of debate about what to do with the course – the least profitable of the city’s three courses – the renovation plan was approved by city commissioners on March 17, “and we began work on the 20th,” Parks and Golf Maintenance Supervisor Mike Mitchum said with a laugh.

The front end of the driving range will be 200 feet wide and then taper down to 100 feet, with nets stretching across 250 feet of the 350-yard range.

“It’ll have the appearance of maybe a Top Golf because of the big, tall nets,” Mitchum said. “But it’ll keep (it) so that we don’t lose balls, and it’ll keep the folks that are playing on the golf course safe.”

Riverview is a nine-hole course that is one of three city-run courses, including the nine-hole Paul Walker course and 18-hole CrossWinds course. But with the new addition, Riverview will become the only course with a driving range.

“Very few nine-hole courses would you be able to add a driving range, and still have room for a nine-hole course, and we do here. It’s one of the luxuries we have here; we have land,” Belcher said.

To run the disc golf course, the city is partnering with local company Combat Disc Golf.

“They’ll be operating a retail merchandise store out of our pro shop, they’ll have an office here and they’ll be assisting us with maintaining some of the grounds,” Belcher said.

“The golf cart will be a part of their green fee, so they’ll get to use the golf cart,” Mitchum said. “But I think that is important to mention it’s concurrent with ball golf – they should not interfere with each other.”

Part of the project also involves redesigning the nine-hole golf course, replacing the property’s irrigation system and planting grass.

“For the new Bermuda grass, it’s going to require more care. The course has needed an updated irrigation system for quite some time. That’s why we’ve struggled in the past to keep the tees in the greens,” Mitchum said.

The department is working with a budget of about $739,000 and hopes to regain some of the construction costs through revenue from the driving range and increased course use.

“It’s too early for us to say exactly where that final number is going to come in because we just have a lot more work to be done,” Belcher said. “We were approved for about three quarters of a million, and we feel pretty confident we’ll be within that number.”

The city’s public works department is also helping with construction to keep costs low.

“This is really not a renovation. This is a change of operation,” Belcher said.

“It’s kind of a golf complex,” Mitchum said. “And of course … we hope there will be some crossover, that there will be some ball golfers that say, ‘Hey, I’ve never tried (disc golf), but I’m gonna give it a try,’ and vice versa.”

Mueller's public statement fuels calls for Trump impeachment

WASHINGTON – Special counsel Robert Mueller’s first – and possibly last – public statement on the Russia investigation is fueling fresh calls on Capitol Hill to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, a step that Democratic leaders have so far resisted.

Surprising Washington with brief remarks Wednesday, Mueller indicated it’s up to Congress to decide what to do with his findings.

The special counsel reiterated that, bound by Justice Department policy, charging a sitting president with a crime was “not an option.”

But he also stressed he could not exonerate Trump. Instead, he cited that same policy to say, “The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system.”

With Mueller closing his office and not expected to comment further, it all amounted, for some, to an open invitation for Congress to launch impeachment proceedings.

“He’s asking us to do what he wasn’t allowed to – hold the president accountable,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel with impeachment power.

“We have one remaining path to ensure justice is served,” said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate. “It’s clear that the House must begin impeachment proceedings. No one is above the law.”

But top Democrats, with almost no support from Republicans, are hesitant to go it alone on an impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned would be divisive for the nation. They prefer to continue the work of investigating the president and building, as Pelosi said Wednesday, a case that’s “very compelling to the American people.”

“We are legislating, we’re investigating and we are litigating,” Pelosi said at an event in San Francisco.

“Nothing is off the table,” she said. “We want to do what is right and what gets results.”

Staying the course, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, at a news conference in New York stopped short of calling for an impeachment inquiry.

“All options are on the table and nothing should be ruled out,” Nadler said Wednesday.

Nadler’s committee is among six in the House that are conducting dozens of probes in the Democratic-controlled House into subjects such as Trump’s tax returns, the handling of the Russia probe and the running of government.

“Given that special counsel Mueller was unable to pursue criminal charges against the President, it falls to Congress to respond to the crimes, lies and other wrongdoing of President Trump – and we will do so,” Nadler said in a written statement issued immediately after Mueller’s remarks.

Before Mueller’s unexpected appearance, Democratic leaders had tamped down increasingly vocal voices calling for an impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi sent lawmakers home for a weeklong recess brushing back the pro-impeachment faction, urging her caucus to stick with the step-by-step approach of investigations. They hoped to hear directly from Mueller in a high-profile hearing that could help focus public attention.

But now that Mueller has made clear the work ahead won’t likely include him – announcing his office is closing and he’s resigning his position – it’s igniting new urgency on Capitol Hill to pick up where the special counsel left off.

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, another Democratic presidential hopeful, said, “Mueller did his job. Now it’s time to do ours. Impeachment hearings should begin tomorrow.”

While some Democrats want to focus on investigating Trump, building the record in the public, as happened during the Watergate era with Richard Nixon, others, including some new voices Wednesday, said Mueller has all but punted the issue to Congress. They believe opening a formal impeachment proceeding would strengthen their hand in the legal battles over documents and testimony.

“It is very clear that President Trump is engaging in a cover-up, obstructing of justice and betraying his oath of office,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. “I fully expect the responsible House committees to expedite their investigations and, as soon as possible, formally draft articles of impeachment.”

Mueller’s report did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Investigators examined nearly a dozen episodes involving the president for potential obstruction of justice but ultimately reached no conclusion on whether Trump had illegally tried to stymie the probe.

Mueller made clear his desire to avoid testimony, declaring the report his final word on the matter. He said it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for him “to speak further about the investigation.”

Nadler would not say whether he would compel Mueller to testify, as he has threatened to do. But he hinted that he may not pursue an aggressive approach against the special counsel, saying, “Mr. Mueller told us a lot of what we need to hear today.”

Republicans, as they have done since Mueller’s report was released, called for Congress to move on.

The GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that Mueller “has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead.”

Graham has said his committee doesn’t need Mueller to testify. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary panel, had supported Democratic requests for Mueller’s House testimony but appeared to be satisfied by the special counsel’s comments Wednesday.

“While I had hoped he would come before the committee and answer questions from lawmakers, Robert Mueller has led an extraordinary life of public service and is entitled to his life as a private citizen once again,” Collins said.

But at least one Republican isn’t ready to move on: Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who has become the sole GOP voice in Congress urging impeachment proceedings.

“The ball is in our court, Congress,” Amash tweeted.

Logan's Ross second to announce campaign for circuit judge
 Justin Story  / 

joe ross

Logan County Attorney Joe Ross announced this week his plan to seek election as judge for the 7th Judicial Circuit, making him the second candidate to enter the field.

Ross and Russellville-based attorney Joe Hendricks Jr. will campaign to replace sitting 7th Circuit Judge Tyler Gill, who is retiring effective July 31.

Ross, elected county attorney in 2010, has prosecuted Logan County’s misdemeanor cases and violations and handled many felony cases that eventually go to circuit court to be resolved.

“I have dealt with cases that come before the circuit judge since my first days as an attorney,” Ross said. “I think I’ve got a broad diversity of experience in the Logan and Todd circuit dealing with the type of issues the circuit court deals with on a daily basis.

In additional to criminal prosecutions, Ross as county attorney acts as legal adviser to the Logan County government and the county’s special taxing districts, and is also responsible for child support enforcement, delinquent tax and cold check collection and all juvenile court proceedings.

In addition to his responsibilities as county attorney, Ross maintains a private legal practice that handles civil litigation, domestic relations cases, estate planning, adoptions and property disputes.

Prior to becoming county attorney, Ross was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in the 7th Circuit, which covers Logan and Todd counties.

In that role, he prosecuted and obtained convictions in a number of serious criminal cases.

Ross long nurtured an interest in the legal profession, and his focus on criminal law developed during his first job after obtaining his law degree from the University of Kentucky, where he worked for Gill as his law clerk, consulting with the judge and performing legal research on criminal and civil matters that made their way to circuit court.

“Getting to see him at work for a year, handling multiple trials every month gave me new respect for the practice of law and more interest in criminal law,” Ross said.

When Ross was 17, an illness caused him to lose his central vision, leaving him legally blind.

A career in law did not seem to be an option as Ross went through college, but he thrived as a student and considered careers in the field of social work.

Ross’ vision returned four years after his illness, and with it his desire to enter the legal field as a way of helping the community and repaying people who helped him as he dealt with his diminished eyesight.

“I knew being an attorney would give me more options than any profession I could think of to do that sort of advocacy,” Ross said about serving the community.