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History

New trail connects historic segregation-era state park to Kenlake State Resort Park

Cherokee Sign.jpg
Courtesy of Kentucky State Parks
Volunteers and Kentucky State Parks workers mount the sign for the new Coach Lester Mimms trail connecting Cherokee State Historic Park and Kenlake State Resort Park in Hardin. Cherokee State Historic Park was one of six segregation era parks designated for African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

A new trail connects what was once Kentucky’s only state park for African Americans to Kenlake State Resort Park. The Kentucky Department of Parks announced the opening of the two-mile trail in Marshall County in a release Monday.

Members of the Friends of Cherokee State Historic Park and the Hardin community celebrated the trail’s completion in mid-November. The 300-acre park was one of only six open to African Americans in the United States during the Jim Crow Era. The trail is named in memory of the park’s first superintendent Coach Lester Mimms.

Friends of Cherokee State Historic Park vice president Nancy Dawson sees this as a stepping stone to getting more people to see the value of preserving the park and its history.

“I see it as important to continue to get people to understand what Cherokee meant to the African-American community,” Dawson told WKMS. “I think that’s super important. So Cherokee gave people a sense of freedom even though they were still segregated. It gave them freedom.”

Dawson hopes future visitors and generations look at the park as a historical site.

“We want to make sure that the narrative is still one in which people understand what happened there – that it was segregated,” she said. “Segregation influenced every aspect of American society. It’s American history. So hopefully in the future, in the park people can come and have fun – Black, white, all kinds of people – but they still understand this is what happened here.”

Cherokee State Park opened its gates in 1951 and closed in 1963 with the ending of Kentucky’s segregation of public accommodations. It then merged with what is now Kenlake State Resort Park. The former park earned recognition on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Today, it is frequently used for weddings and other recreational events.

To learn more about Cherokee State Historic Park or upcoming events, visit the Friends of Cherokee State Historic Park website.

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