Framework for the Future


Principles and Practices

Over the past twenty-five years, the Friends of the Lost River has served tens-of-thousands of local families, making it one of the most effective non-profit organizations in the community. Principles and practices developed to ‘save the cave,’ have provided conservation, outdoor recreation and strengthening of the local economy with jobs and tourism revenues.

The organization has a strong tradition of planning, providing revenue sufficient to carry out its mission.



  • Conservation. Protection of the original 25-acre valley from commercial development has compelled the Friends organization to acquire several adjacent parcels of land. Today, the park is comprised of approximately 70 acres of woodlands, wetlands and meadows.
  • Stewardship. Preservation of the cultural history, geological and environmental resources for future generations through responsible planning and management.
  • Education. Place-based learning opportunities for schools and scouts are the focus of a wide-variety of activities that help thousands of local children develop an appreciation for and an understanding of the natural world. Western Kentucky University faculty, students and interns utilize the park for research and hands-on application of course work.
  • Community Investment. Tourism proceeds and other business activities deliverthe majority of financial support that allows the Friends organization toprovidethe community with a 70-acre park that is open year-round and free to the public. Responsibilities include:
    • Maintenance of the cave, valley woodlands and blueholes, over two-miles of natural and paved trails, parking lots, butterfly habitat, outdoor classroom, gift shop, interpretative signage and historic buildings
    • Ongoing restoration of a 20-acre Barrens Prairie, located along Dishman Lane, that provides natural habitat for urban wildlife and educational opportunities for thousands of area school children
    • Upkeep of a constructed wetland and retention basin. Native plants serve as a barrier to Stormwater runoff entering the cave system. Creation of the wetland established new habitat for hundreds of birds, ducks, frogs and turtles
    • Annual debt service on three parcels of land. These mortgages represent the only long-term debt held by the organization
    • Development of educational classroom space, administrative offices and maintenance facilities necessary to support the mission.
  • Now, the volunteer Board of Directors will turn its attention to the future. The Board is committed to provide a place where both the mental and physical benefits of time in the outdoors is readily available to our community.

    FOUR STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN ADOPTED that define the work to be done in order to achieve our objective of engaging adults and children to learn about and enjoy time spent in nature.

    Goal OneInvolve the community in a capital campaign to create a Nature Center at Lost River Cave. The Nature Center will include exhibits, classrooms, meeting spaces and interpretative signage that inspire connections with the natural world and will be the first of its kind in south-central Kentucky.
    Goal TwoEstablish sustainable support to provide annual maintenance of cave, trails, prairie, outdoor classroom and wetland. The board has taken the initiative to increase development capacity and explore additional revenue streams.
    Goal ThreeExpand existing programs to stimulate a love of learning about nature and science. Utilize our professional staff to involve teachers and the community through authentic hands-on activities that include a nature component.
    Goal FourUnderstand members’ needs and recruit new supporters. By building awareness of Lost River Cave as a community resource that provides access to ‘nearby nature’ we can help our community become more in tune with the importance of nature in our everyday lives.

    Case for Support

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    “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health

    (and also, by the way, in our own).”

    -Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods.