Submitted by Joshua Frye, Public Affairs Specialist
Over 1.5 million people come to Land Between the Lakes in a given year. While our location in western Kentucky and Tennessee makes it ideal for many Americans to visit, I was surprised to find out just how far people travel to get here thanks to Regina Mitcheson.
Regina kept track of visitor’s origins for an entire season in her black composition notebook. She works at the Woodlands Nature Station with Friends of Land Between The Lakes. I drove up to speak with her and get her perspectives.
Regina told me she maintained a list beginning in June 2015. “You know, I just talked to folks, asked them where they’re from and then I’d write it down.” Her list grew and grew. Until she reached the end of her page, and kept notes in the columns.
Originally, the retired Trigg county teacher thought getting all fifty U.S. states might be tough. “I thought that Hawaii and Alaska would be the ones I wouldn’t get, but when I started I had them in the first week!”
Interacting with Nature Station visitors meant meeting people from North America, and almost every other continent. “I talked to a lot of people who just wanted someone to listen,” Regina told me. “I spoke with a family from Afghanistan. They came here from a war, they loved being here.” People have a chance to learn a little and relax as they pass through the Nature Station gift shop filled with souvenirs, colorful books, and snacks.
“This is a wonderful place to work,” beams Regina as she recounts her experiences at Land Between the Lakes. The 31-year teaching veteran plans to keep her list going in 2016 too.