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Letter from Gary O'Dell to Evelyn Bradshaw on the status the Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve

March 18, 1991

Dear Evelyn,

Current status and plans of the Great Saltpetre Cave Historic Preserve management committee are as follows:

  • To maintain without further deterioration existing historic artifacts of the cave
  • To gradually reestablish a natural woodland environment outside the cave, and protect the environment within
  • To establish set trails within the cave to protect artifacts; to establish hiking trails on the property
  • To upgrade visitor facilities
  • To establish liaison with the business and political community of Rockcastle County for the benefit of the cave and county
  • To encourage research of all sorts on the property
  • No regular commercial tours, though any are welcome on a prearranged basis. All excursions through the cave must be accompanied by either a committee member or a designated appointee. Tours by civic, educational, and other non-caver groups are encouraged on this basis. (designated appointee is understood to mean a responsible and experienced, usually NSS, caver, as a tour leader)


Site security and vandalism. Has been a problem but expected to be less so as the residence on the property has now been rented to a responsible local citizen.
Finances. This is the largest problem, as common to such enterprises. This is being addressed though a number of avenues. Funds are sought through private donations. We have had some valuable advice from Dave Foster of the ACCA. Tax-exempt status has been achieved, but facility improvements, insurance, and a host of other considerations require funding. The Committee is very appreciative of the NSS' past aid, and ongoing support from the Cincinnati and Lexington grottos.

Current Projects

An open house will be held May 11 at Great Saltpetre Cave, given for the non-caver population of Rockcastle County. The cave has long had an important role in local history and continues of great interest. We feel that enlisting local support of the historic preserve is essential to continuation as a viable enterprise.. We believe that we, as management, hold the cave in trust for the population of the county, region, and state, as an important historic locale, as well as the caving and speleo-community. As we see it, the primary purpose of the Great Saltpetre Cave preserve is preservation as a historic site, and all other uses are incidental and secondary. It is not a commercial cave, and not a party cave for cavers. Facilities are to be developed on the outside to accommodate the numerous cavers that gather in the area for caving in the region, but we do not wish a high traffic level within the cave, (though of course, as earlier stated, it is freely available for prearranged tours to any, cavers or non-cavers).

The open house is intended to show the Rockcastle County public that a group of outsiders have not come in and taken over the cave to shut it away; that this is their cave, too, and worthy of preservation. Prior to the May 11 open house, a "VIP" tour will be held on April 20 to which local businesses and civic leaders will be invited for a private showing of the cave, and their comments solicited.

There has been a great deal of cleanup and work done on the site to date; so far mostly consisting of restroom (outhouse) facilities, renovation of the residence, and work on cave security (gates).

Current Management committee members:

Wes Keifer
Ron Crawford
Allen Watts
Darlene Heist

Gary O'Dell
Jon Hagee
Hans Lindblum
Chris Hacker (replaces Don Pollock due to increased obligations elsewhere)

I hope that this will answer some of your questions. Please feel free to contact any of us. I am tentatively planning to do a paper for presentation at the 1991 National Cave Management Symposium (Oct 23-26 at Bowling Green, KY)


Gary O'Dell
NSS 10278

Source: The NSS Archives. Handwritten letter digitized by Andy Niekamp.

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