Mammoth Cave Park Digs Alt Fuel Fleet

Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park, as spelunkers the world over know, is the longest cave system known in the world, with over 390 miles (!) of passageways. Now, park officials hope, Mammoth Cave will also be known for something beside stalactites, stalagmites and an endangered, sightless albino shrimp known as the Kentucky Cave shrimp.

Mammoth Cave was selected as one of the first National Park Service (NPS) areas to receive a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-Clean Cities/National Park Initiative award. The $505,000 will help replace older vehicles with new, more efficient ones that are less reliant on petroleum based fuels like gasoline and diesel. Mammoth Cave National Park already had a strong alternative fuel vehicle fleet, fueled by propane, ethanol, biodiesel and electricity. The partnership with Clean Cities replaced four aging propane buses (three 1990 models and a 1977 model) with new ones, and also two gasoline pickup trucks with two propane pickups, and one gasoline-powered golf cart with a new electric powered Global Electric Motorcar vehicle.

Mammoth Caves alt fleet

image via DOE-Clean Cities/National Park Initiative

According to the DOE-Clean Cities/National Park Initiative, Mammoth Cave was selected as one of the first National Park Service (NPS) areas to kick off the initiative because of its good track record with past Clean Cities alternative fuel projects and its high visibility impact with park visitors. Forever Resorts, the park concessioner, also converted its bus fleet to propane. The partnership recognizes the park’s long collaborative history with the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, which was instrumental in the installation of an alternative-fuel filling station at the park.

“With our high visitation, Mammoth Cave is a perfect place for a demonstration project like this,” said Park Superintendent Patrick Reed. “Mammoth Cave is a mammoth cave with several outlying cave entrances. Each year, approximately 175,000 visitors ride a bus as part of their cave tour; visitors enter and exit the cave at various locations and walk up to five miles underground.” On a busy summer day, Reed said, “buses travel more than 400 miles within the park. Using propane instead of gasoline greatly reduces emissions and the park’s carbon footprint and park visitors get a better understanding of how alternative fuels can reduce the country’s dependence on oil.”

The DOE-Clean Cities National Park interagency agreement allows up to $5 million each year to be used for demonstration projects that educate park visitors on the benefits of reducing dependence on petroleum, cutting greenhouse gases, and helping NPS ease traffic congestion. Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park will unveil their programs later this year.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.