John and Karen Gray of Norfolk, Virginia, made their way up the stairs toward the Lincoln Memorial at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville to learn about the early life of America’s 16th president.
Visiting the park Saturday morning as part of a trip through Kentucky, the couple decided the park would be an important place to stop along their travels.
“It’s nice to see the visitor center open,” Karen said. “A lot of visitor centers are not open.”
Because most of its features are outdoors, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park has remained accessible to the public throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The park’s visitor center was closed from March 18 to June 5, according to information provided by Stacy Humphreys, chief of interpretation and resource management at the park.
The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the park’s Memorial Building is accessible daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The shop inside the visitors center is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the Memorial Building, visitors can see the symbolic birth cabin from a wooden viewing box placed inside the building.
Self-guided tours are available at the park and park rangers currently are giving five-minute orientation talks several times throughout the day on weekends at the Memorial Building. When park buildings were restricted, the park offered virtual programs on Facebook three times a week.
In addition to the Memorial Building’s viewing box, other changes to the park have included the requirement of protective masks indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible, social distancing signage, Plexiglas protective barriers, an outdoor information desk and limited capacity in the Visitor Center’s theater and museum.
“Notably, a majority of visitors have been responsive and responsible in following the guidance,” Humphreys said.
At the Lincoln Lodge, just a hundreds yards or so away from the park, business has been down both in lodging and in sales from the business’ gift shop because of COVID-19, according to owner and operator Cody McDowell.
“We are still getting some people visiting the park or needing to rent a room for other reasons but it definitely is much slower than it should be,” he said. “We are trying to run a lean operation.”
In downtown Hodgenville, the Lincoln Museum reopened June 8 after weeks closed. According to information provided by Director Iris LaRue and Assistant Director Rob Thurman, the museum closed March 18 but the facility was able to reopen visitor services May 24.
The museum is following guidance from the CDC, requiring masks and the facility frequently is sanitized.
With the loss of group tours, school groups, charter bus excursions and other pre-arranged visits, attendance has been down at the museum this year. Although the museum has been visited by travelers from around the country this year, international visitors have been scarce, according to museum officials.
Other area tourist attractions also have reopened and implemented changes amid COVID-19.
The General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox reopened to the public July 7 after closing in March because of COVID-19 restrictions. A few procedural changes impact visitors and staff.
According to information from Fort Knox Media Relations Officer Kyle Hodges, all visitors to the museum are required to wear a mask and apply hand sanitizer when entering the building. Visitors also are required to maintain proper social distancing from fellow visitors and staff and in-person interactions with museum staff will be limited.
According to museum staff, Hodges said the weekly average of visitors is substantially higher than the average recorded when the museum closed. However, Hodges said this is to be expected, as attendance tends to be low at the museum during colder months.
The operation status of the museum will be reliant on the Department of Defense’s Health Protection Condition level, Hodges said.
The museum currently is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It also is open during the first two Saturdays of the month from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame in Elizabethtown also has reopened to the public. Closed in early March, the hall reopened July 3 with modified hours and guidelines.
According to Community Director Kenny Henderson, the hall is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The hall previously maintained a Wednesday through Saturday schedule.
Henderson said groups of up to 10 who wish to tour the hall when it is not open to the walk-in visitors can call 270-234-8354 to reserve a private tour.
“We’re pretty flexible right now,” Henderson said.
Henderson said new signage has been installed at the hall to promote social distancing and visitors must follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask when entering. Hand sanitizing areas also have been installed, he said. Henderson said he is pleased to re-open to the pubic with these new guidelines.
“We’re really tickled to get back into operation,” Henderson said.