NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Cummins Falls State Park will reopen Wednesday, weather permitting, more than two months after a Kentucky toddler was killed during flash flooding.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is implementing a new safety strategy, that includes real-time weather/monitoring at the park.
“Park staff will evacuate the gorge when radar indicates rain anywhere in the watershed, not just the park itself,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson said.
Cummins Falls closed back in June after 2-year-old Steven Pierce was swept away by fast-moving water.
At the time, TDEC said the park had never experienced the conditions of that day, when a microburst of less than an inch fell in a nearby basin that caused water in the gorge to rise several feet within minutes.
TDEC says new policies are being added that include requiring children under 12 to be accompanied by an adult. Kids 12 and under also have to have a lifejacket and must wear it when swimming.
Children 5 and under were encouraged to not enter the falls or gorge areas at all.
Three river monitoring gauges have also been installed on tributaries upstream from the falls to measure water levels. If the gauges measure significant water levels, texts/email alerts will be sent to park staff and two 911 response centers.
The park will also have signs in English and Spanish warning about the dangers of flash flooding. A temporary visitor’s center has also been built over the trail leading to the falls with two monitors that play a safety video as visitors enter the trail.
Cummins Falls is also adding two seasonal employees to help manage crowds.
In the event of an evacuation, there are three refuge areas where visitors can wait until they’re either evacuated or the water recedes.
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