Park where toddler drowned adds safety features, will reopen
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials have implemented more safety measures and will reopen a state park where flash flooding swept away and killed a Kentucky toddler, officials said Tuesday.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a statement that Cummins Falls State Park will open to the public Wednesday if weather permits. It has been closed since the June flash flood that also led to more than 60 people being rescued.
Officials say the new comprehensive safety plan will include more restrictions for children, more warnings, real-time weather monitoring, water monitoring, additional refuge areas in case of an evacuation and more on-site personnel.
“This area is an extremely rugged area in a dynamic watershed that will never be completely risk free, and the best way to enhance safety is to take a comprehensive approach, and in this case that means new policies, educational tools and wet-weather protocols for our visitors,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson said.
The popular swimming spot is in a gorge below a 75-foot waterfall. Storms that hit surrounding streams can create a wave of floodwater into the falls, even if no rain is falling in the park.
Officials say the park will have a weather monitoring station and staff will monitor watershed-specific radar using river monitoring gauges that have been installed upstream from the falls. The gauges will send alerts when water levels rise significantly.
Going forward, officials say children 12 and younger will be required to have a life jacket and be accompanied by an adult. In addition, there will be more signs in English and Spanish to warn of dangers at the park and safety videos will play on monitors before visitors go into the park.