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Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook Dedication

Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook Dedication

About Golden Pond, Kentucky

Long after the people of Golden Pond were displaced by the creation of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, former residents of Golden Pond continued to gather and remember at the location where their town had once been. While the buildings were gone, the large flower garden that lay at the center of town and concrete mounting blocks still existed in place, acting as visual cues, orienting visitors to the layout of the former town.

However, when the new four-lane version of Highway 68/80 was constructed, even those last remains of Golden Pond were removed, essentially erasing history and memory from the landscape. The elimination of this important heritage resource prompted Jamie Bennett, Heritage Program Manager for Land Between the Lakes at that time, to seek and obtain funding from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to mitigate the negative impacts caused by the highway expansion.

Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook dedicaiton
New panels set for dedication of Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook at Land Between the Lakes.

Former residents wanted to recognize where the center of the former town where Golden Pond used to be. Unfortunately, placing a memorial there would be nearly impossible, as the footprint of a new highway emerged. Consensus shifted toward creating an overlook.

In November of 2010, shortly after the asphalt of the new highway had been laid down, Jamie and her team climbed the hillsides around Golden Pond and found a location suitable for the purpose. By the end of 2012, a trail had been constructed to the location and a gravel was laid down in preparation for a concrete pad. In 2013, the first concrete pad was poured and engraved, the bases for the six interpretive panels were put in place, and the original mounting blocks from the center of town were moved up to the overlook.

The dedication of the new Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook on October 22, 2016 was a wonderful day of celebration and remembrance. We commemorated the town of Golden Pond, the people of Golden Pond, and the rich cultural landscape created by the generations of families who resided in this area of Trigg County. Speakers from the community stood on an engraved concrete map of the town, with a backdrop of newly installed interpretive panels, and talked about both the history of Golden Pond and the importance of honoring the past.

The Last Year of Preparation

The years had dragged on since the project had first begun. But in 2015, the US Forest Service, their contractors, and the Golden Pond Overlook Committee (composed of former residents) all put forth a concerted effort to finish the overlook. The year leading up to project completion was one of frantic activity.

Former residents help layout display panels
Former Golden Pond, KY residents help Jamie Bennett gather and layout photos and historical information for the display panels.

Jamie held meetings with former residents where ideas about the layout and content of six interpretive panels were hammered out. Jamie made maps of the town with locations of every structure mapped in place. Former residents carted in albums and books of photos and information about the people, places, and events that made Golden Pond unique and memorable.

Multiple versions of the panels were organized and reorganized and eventually sent off to the contractor Interpretive Graphics, who specialize in interpretive and historical markers, to be edited, formatted, and polished with a professional touch.

An additional interpretative display was added to the overlook concept when Jamie proposed a glass panel, through which people could look and see the layout of where structures in the town used to sit. She referred to it as interpreting when there is no “there” there.

With knowledge of where structures once stood as well as photographs, a line drawing was created. Visitors would soon be able to look through an etched glass panel and see the town of Golden Pond come to life.

Structures from Golden Pond etched in glass
Historic structures in Golden Pond, KY etched in glass for visitors to see the town.

Former residents, in addition to compiling a list of family names from memory, did extensive research into census data of the area to make sure that every effort was made to include every known family who lived in Golden Pond. Interpretative Graphics started working on a concept to include an amazing watercolor painting on the family names panel.

The years between when the original concrete pad was poured and when the panels were coming together, had taken its toll on the original concrete surface. A decision was made by the group to create a new concrete pad and map. This time, Capital Concrete was brought in from Smyrna, Tennessee, to pattern stamp, engrave, and stain the new slab. Everyone was thrilled with the results.

A Bronze Plaque was designed commemorating the two concrete mounting blocks as the final two architectural elements to be removed from Golden pond. The plaque and the new concrete slab were installed the same day.

Bronze plaque and mounting blocks installed at overlook site
Bronze plaque and mounting blocks installed at the new Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook location along US 68/KY 80 in Land Between the Lakes.

The week before the dedication was the busiest of all. Press releases were circulating. The glass panel display arrived and was installed. The program of events was finalized and printed. The trail to the overlook was meticulously rehabilitated. The new parking lot for visitors to the overlook was finished. The hillsides around the overlook and the town were mowed. And, Special Use Agreements were signed with former residents and Trigg County so that off-road utility vehicles could ferry mobility impaired people to the overlook location.

The Dedication Day

The Heritage team arrived at the overlook at 10am on Dedication Day, October 22nd, 2016 to set up for the event and install the six interpretive panels. This final installation was done on the morning of the dedication in order to protect the panels from any possible mishap that could have befallen them before the big day.

Christ Thornock installs a new interpretive panel
Christ Thornock has some help installing one of the new interpretive panels at the Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook.

The former residents covered the panels, set the speakers’ chairs, and set up tables and guest books. A total of 145 people signed the guest books and that didn’t include all the Forest Service personnel, law enforcement, or Trigg County employees who were there to help. A local funeral home provided a large tent and chairs for the event and the Friends of Land Between the Lakes set up tables and provided refreshments. As the guests started to arrive, Forest Service employees in orange vests directed them where to park and how to get to the overlook.

At 2pm, Jim Wallace (Former resident, Golden Pond Overlook Committee member, and event MC) began the dedication. The opening prayer was performed by the Reverend Elijah Balentine. Next, Area Supervisor Tina Tilley, spoke and thanked the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for their portion of the funding. Bill Miller, a retired educator and minister, read from his essay titled “Remembering” which he first wrote for the dedication of the Golden Pond roadside historical marker.

Jim Wallace speaks as others wait their turn
Jim Wallace remembers his town of Golden Pond, KY.

Department of Parks Commissioner for the State of Kentucky and former Golden Pond resident, Donnie Holland, then spoke about balancing our appreciation of the amenities that Land Between the Lakes has to offer, such as the Nature Station and the Homeplace 1850, with remembering the pain and sacrifice made by the people who were removed from Between the Rivers. Finally, Jim Wallace made the final remarks and the Golden Pond Overlook Committee unveiled the interpretive panels.

Everyone was very pleased with the content and quality of the Overlook and with the events of the day.

A New Approach to Public Interpretation

One of the most important takeaways from this amazing experience is how successful and meaningful the collaborative process was.

A former resident of the “between the rivers” area once told me they have heard enough of other people telling the history of this area; former residents from “between the rivers” should be who tells that story.

Crowd at Golden Pond Interpretive Overlook dedicaiton
Former residents and other visitors explore the new interpretive panels at the overlook.

I think this is vitally important right now. Many of the former residents have passed on, but many others are eager to tell their story of the past; stories of people and places, joys and heartbreaks. Working with the former residents of Golden Pond has been amazingly rewarding. They organized their own photographs, wrote their own narratives, and chronicled their own event.

This overlook, which tells the story of Golden Pond to the public, was crafted by the people who know that story the best.

Take a walk and enjoy the new overlook…learn the story….

Chris Thornock
Acting Heritage Program Manager

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