JACKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The gorge portion of Cummins Falls State Park will reopen Wednesday for the first time since a child’s drowning death in June.
The reopening of the falls Wednesday morning will include additional signage at the trailhead, new policies for minors where each child 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult and must have a life jacket and, if swimming, must wear them.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy commissioner says those that don’t have a life jacket will be turned away from the gorge.
“We will have a few life jackets up here and we will have some down there, but we will have people with radios so we will always know what our inventory is,” Deputy Commissioner Jim Bryson told News 2.
Additional measures include a safety education video area, real-time weather, and water monitoring, as well as refuge areas for visitors.
“This is an inherently dangerous place, we are doing everything we can to reduce the risk of being here but there is always going to be some danger to it,” Bryson explained.
Across from the entrance to the park, Old Mill Camp General Store will now be selling life jackets.
Co-owner Rita Barlow says their business has taken a 50 percent hit since the gorge closed.
“We’ve had a lot of disappointed people in the last couple of months,” Barlow explained.
She says people come to see the falls from all over the world.
“They’ve been here from Australia, Venezuela, the UK,” she continued saying the trip is worth it, “Oh it’s amazing, it’s a 75-foot cascading waterfall with different ledges.”
Barlow says she and her customers have been anxiously waiting to hear when the area would reopen.
“It was all I could do to keep from going whoo whoo when they announced it.”
Parts of the park have been closed since June pending an investigation after a toddler died in the waters.
2-year-old Steven Pierce drowned and 63 people had to be rescued from the water. At least 50 victims were escorted out under their own power while 13 were rescued by swift water teams in the massive rescue effort.
Pierce was the third death at Cummins Falls in the last two years due to rising flood levels in the gorge.