When it comes to planning for the future, Cave City officials are taking the long view.
Cave City’s City Council plans to hold a special meeting with the Kentucky League of Cities soon after the holidays on a date to be determined to learn about the work that will be involved in drafting a strategic plan that will guide the city’s development during the next several years.
The city’s proximity to Mammoth Cave National Park and its location along Interstate 65 have given Cave City a built-in advantage in attracting tourists, but Mayor Dwayne Hatcher hopes a strategic plan developed in consultation with the League of Cities will shine a light on Cave City’s other attractive qualities.
“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak,” Hatcher said. “Tourism is a major factor here with our location, but we can’t just build solely on that. We’re working hard on infrastructure and industry here. … We can no longer be so dependent on tourism, although it is one of the major factors. We have so much more to offer, too.”
Two KLC advisers spoke at a recent council meeting about the benefits of a strategic plan and how the process of creating a plan can draw in the involvement of community members.
The KLC has been active as a consultant with other communities in the state that have drafted their own plans.
In 2011, Williamstown developed a strategic plan with input from community leaders, high school students and others that addressed a number of topics thought to be important to that city’s development, including restoration of downtown and diversification of the local economy.
Hatcher said Cave City’s process of putting together its own plan will involve extensive input and could take several months, if not longer.
“It’s a rather slow process, but it’s well worth doing,” Hatcher said. “With something this important, you don’t want to just rush into it. We want input from all of our citizens. … Hopefully, one thing we’ll create will be more involvement. We want people to feel that they are part of the community.”
Though not a member of Cave City government, Jeff Lawson wears many hats in the community as the owner of Cave Country RV Campground and the president of the Cave City Chamber of Commerce.
Lawson said he was aware the Cave City Convention and Tourism Commission has surveyed visitors for the past several months about their impressions of the area.
“Local people say things like they want more restaurants and more things to do, and visitors comment about empty buildings,” Lawson said. “That’s a real detraction because people come in and, instead of people, they see a dying town, and we don’t see it that way. We have a lot to offer, but for people driving in off the interstate they get the opposite impression.”
Lawson came to Cave City from Pennsylvania more than five years ago, leaving the restaurant business there to operate an RV park in the area. When deciding where to relocate, he centered on Cave City for its small-town atmosphere and its convenience to Mammoth Cave.
Lawson said he believes it’s important for as many people to be involved in the process as possible, and he hopes that the different segments of the community can agree on some common goals for the city’s long-term future.
“For the future, if we have a clear direction of who we are and what we want to accomplish, we can achieve it,” Lawson said.