With a cut of a ribbon and an applaud from the crowd…the park reopened. But it wasn’t always that simple.
“We went through Hurricane Michael here. Overall we lost about 90% of the trees here within the 1500 acree Florida Caverns State Park. and about 60% of the structures here in the park recieved severe damage,” said Billy Bailey, Assistant Park Manager.
Opening in 1942, the park has long been a staple for the community. Following Michael, Former Governor Rick Scott repurposed money to the park—allowing them to rebuild.
The community celebrated with cheers, refreshments and hope for the parks future.
“We look forward to the opportunity to basically rebuild the park here and to improve it,” said Bailey.
When the park closed its doors in October, residents were worried and upset.
“It’s great, I’m happy, because I was scared they weren’t going to reopen it. So now them having the courage to reopen it is awesome and it will be great for our community,” said Imani Williams who holds the title of Miss Jackson County.
Among the open facilities are the museum, theatre, giftshop, and most importantly—the caverns.
While the lighting in the caverns is still out of service, Bailey says visitors can expect a fun surprise.
“The silver lining to this is that visitors who have visited the park no matter how many times, they get to see the cave differently because we go through the cave now with flashlights,” said Bailey.
Guided flashlight cave tours are first come, first serve.