MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (AP) - Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
bought a 950-acre tract next to Fern Lake as part of a move to
secure the lake and its surrounding watershed of 4,500 acres.
The land, along the Kentucky-Tennessee border, was bought with
$1 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
"It's not every day you get to add land that has significance
on several levels - American history, water quality and view shed -
to the National Park Service," said Rick Wood, Chattanooga field
director for the Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit land
The group negotiated an agreement with the landowner while
federal funds were sought for the purchase.
In 2003, Congress, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal
Rogers, both Kentucky Republicans, passed a bill authorizing the
National Park Service to purchase the Fern Lake tract in order to
ensure safe drinking water for Middlesboro, Ky.
Wood said the group is now focusing on buying the rest of the
4,500-acre tract. The newly acquired land is visible from the
Pinnacle Overlook, the most popular tourist attraction in
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
In addition to protecting the view from the overlook, the 950
acres also provide a connection between Cumberland Gap National
Historical Park and the state of Tennessee's planned extension of
the Cumberland Trail.
Fern Lake, which is privately owned and for sale, was not
included as part of the land purchase. Federal legislation calls
for the U.S. interior secretary to use appropriated funds to
acquire the lake and surrounding acreage from willing sellers.
Mark Woods, superintendent of Cumberland Gap National Historical
Park, said Fern Lake's natural beauty speaks for itself.
"These new tracts will further enhance the park's rich mosaic
of resources, from Civil War history to the story of westward
expansion and our system of 25 caves. It's going to add countless
recreational opportunities for our visitors," Woods said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)