State park looks past bluff’s blunder and invites more people to visit

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and Kentucky state parks are gearing up for their busiest season. Columbus-Belmont State Park is trying to bring in the same influx of visitors it had last summer, when a large landslide took out 75 feet of earth.  

At about 160 feet above the water, Black Oak Middle School teacher Pat Hall from Obion County, Tennessee, looked on at what is left of this bluff.

“It’s pretty awesome that just a chunk of land can fall off like that, you know, that quickly,” Hall said.

Her sixth graders stayed safely behind a fence that was put up after the last slide. 

Park Manager Cindy Lynch said the unstable ground has slid down, but the bluff itself hasn’t changed much. However, parts of it could still slide, which is a concern.

“We don’t suspect anymore issues. We hope there are no more issues, but that’s always a possibility,” Lynch said.

Lynch said they noticed sliding 16 years ago, but had no way of knowing when the big fall would happen. And they don’t know when it could fall again. They’ve put grass seed and straw to help keep the land stable.

“There’s not a lot we can do other than that because it’s going to take a big undertaking and a lot of money to do anything more than that,” Lynch said.

She said slides like this happen because of the park’s loose soil.

“It’s kind of an unmanageable thing and, with the river current and all, the bluff around the river is unstable,” Lynch

Lynch said lots of people came to see the drop off when it happened. Now she wants them to keep coming back because there’s more to the park than the slide.

“It helps us as well as it does the community, and we are just glad to get people out into the park and enjoying it,” Lynch said.

They’re hoping that, with expanded trails and more events this summer, they’ll bring in more visitors like Hall’s sixth grade class

“Just trying to get the kids out into the park and doing some activities, and hiking, and things like that,” Lynch said.

Lynch said the Army Corp. of Engineers is aware of the landslide, as are state politicians. She said she has not heard back from them about a solution. Last July, someone from Army Corp. of Engineers looked at the bluff.

Cory Williams, with the Army Corp. Of Engineers’ Memphis district office, said that without authorization or appropriations from Congress, all the Army Corp. Of Engineers can do is offer general guidance to the park. 

Williams said to make a recommendation it would first have to do a study on all the forms of instability there, which is costly and cannot be done without authorization or appropriations from Congress.

He said if the bluff caused flooding or impacted the navigation channel, making it unsafe for tows and barges to go through, then the Army Corp. Of Engineers might be able to ask for funds to conduct a study and find a solution. However, it is not. So, if locals or state park officials want to find a long-term solution, they need to contact their local representatives. 

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