Tribune-Courier News Editor
GILBERTSVILLE — Kentucky Dam Village celebrated the 50th anniversary of its lodge with a gala Oct. 12.
State Rep. Will Coursey spoke of the revenue generated by state parks. He said Kentucky’s state park system was third in the nation in revenue, only behind New York and California. Kentucky parks generate $840 million annually.
“You will never find a more picturesque view in the Commonwealth than right here,” Coursey said in the lodge’s lobby overlooking Kentucky Lake.
Park manager Scot Ratzlaff said Kentucky Dam Village sees about 25,000 overnight guests annually. The park’s gross proceeds are $5.5 million annually. Golfers play 15,000 rounds of golf annually, and the restaurant seats between 20,000 to 25,000 diners every year.
“There are some people who use the marina but stay in the community, or play golf,” Ratzlaff said. “They may not want to eat in our restaurant during their entire stay so guests go to restaurants nearby. We have large impact on the community.”
Ratzlaff said with a landing strip for light planes, the lake and several roads into the park, guests from around the world enjoy easy access.
“We had one review on TripAdvisor from some German backpackers who came through last spring,” Ratlaff said.
Marshall Judge-Executive Mike Miller said Marshall County’s two state parks, including Kenlake State Resort Park bring guests to the county and generate revenue for the county.
“When it first opened, rooms were $10 per night,” Miller said.
Ransom Stout has worked at the park or has volunteered the for 36 years. His father was once the park manager. He has seen several remodels of the lodge.
“I wish I took a picture of all the buildings over time,” Stout said. “There have been a lot of changes. It’s a beautiful building and a lot of people have gotten married here in the lobby or next to the marina.”
Patty Coakley said she worked at the park as a lifeguard and recreation director in 1960, 1961 and 1962. She recalled the lodge opening with a darker, earth-tone décor.
“This was really a destination for people up north like from Chicago or St. Louis,” Coakley said. “We had 2,000 to 3,000 on the beach back in the heyday. Back then, nobody had pools, and people went to the lakes for swimming.”
Coakley said the lodge opened with a water-skiing demonstration team from Florida.
“Back then, we had all kinds of recreation,” Coakley said. “We had stage productions on the old TVA theater for workers. We had ping pong tables set up, archery and classes for things like bait casting.”