SOMERSET, KENTUCKY (February 13, 2023) — Traversing Lake Cumberland will soon be easier for the more than 4 million people who visit this southern Kentucky waterway every year, thanks to a $175,000 grant from the Kentucky Department of Tourism. Awarded to the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention & Visitors Bureau as a multi-jurisdictional project, the funds — part of the Tourism Recovery and Investment American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — will be used to design and install a wayfinding system covering all 101 miles of Lake Cumberland in Pulaski, Russell, Wayne, McCreary and Casey counties.
“We are grateful to the Kentucky Department of Tourism for selecting our grant application for the Lake Cumberland Wayfinding Signs project,” said Michelle Allen, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County CVB and chair of the Southern Kentucky Vacations region, which includes all five counties. “This is a multi-jurisdiction competitive grant project, and we are so excited to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make it happen. Partnerships create success and all five communities surrounding the lake have a passion to keep improving the experiences we all share on our beautiful Lake Cumberland.”
The tourism offices in these communities have a great working relationship, Allen said, allowing the project to be a viable candidate for the grant.
“Each Lake Cumberland community will have a footprint in making this project a reality,” she said.
Lake Cumberland is one of the largest and most visited lakes in the eastern United States, with more than 1,200 miles of shoreline that currently offer little to no signage for visitors, Allen said. The project will include at least 50 directional markers that help visitors find their way to coves, tributaries and marinas, paired with kiosks at each marina that provide a key to the lake for people preparing to hit the water. The Corps of Engineers will place and install signs in the proper locations, Allen said, as well as provide a detailed listing of all signs needed.
Danielle Wilson, executive director of Russell County Tourism, said the ability to partner with the Corps on a project of this stature will not only benefit the counties surrounding the lake but also their visitors.
“Navigating Lake Cumberland can be tedious if you aren’t familiar with its many waterways, so adding 50-plus signs to designate where you are, will be a benefit to everyone,” Wilson said.
In addition to the obvious community and tourism benefits, this wayfinding system will also help improve public safety on the lake, Allen said.
“Not only will this help our visitors discover coves or landmarks for fishing, wakeboarding or simply relaxing, this project also provides a significant benefit to our first responders and vacationers in terms of safety,” Allen said. “If a visitor were to be hurt while on the lake, knowing the name of their location will be crucial in shortening response times.”
ARPA was signed into law in March 2021 to provide financial relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2022, the Commonwealth of Kentucky announced it would allocate $75 million in ARPA funds to enhance local and regional tourism efforts, as the industry suffered a
significant loss of revenue during that time. In the five counties that surround Lake Cumberland, all suffered job and destination losses as restaurants and other businesses closed permanently — totaling a more than 30 percent decline in economic impact in the region, Allen said.
“That is frightening when you consider the size of these communities and that tourism is their only source of income,” Allen said. “That is another reason we are so grateful for this funding — we’re providing a much-needed amenity to our lake visitors while providing a much-needed economic boost to the industry and economy. This project is truly a win-win.”
Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky is The Capital of Lake Cumberland, where every year more than 4 million visitors enjoy “real life, unsalted™” on Lake Cumberland’s more than 1,200 miles of shoreline and 63,000 surface acres of water. Boating, watersports, hiking, camping, mountain biking, outdoor art, culinary excellence and a robust entertainment scene combine to deliver an authentic southern Kentucky adventure. For more information about where to stay, dine, shop or explore, visit lctourism.com