“Wow!” These were probably the first words used by Horse Cave native, Peggy Bunnell Nims, when she first saw Hidden River Cave and the clean river that runs through it. On assignment for the local newspaper, Peggy literally jumped at the opportunity to interview the ACCA’s executive director, Dave Foster, and document the installment of the foot bridge to the downstream dam.
Living only three blocks from the cave, she had often walked or ridden her bicycle beside the cave entrance.
“I probably had been told by an overprotective parent that the cave was haunted. At that time, the sinkhole was overgrown with brambles and litter, and it had such a nauseating stench that forced you to retreat to the opposite side of the highway. So, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to avoid the site.”
Since those early days in 1994, Peggy has either worked for the ACCA or brought her middle and high school students to the cave and museum for ecology field trips. Already a caver, Peggy’s passion for the cave’s amazing recovery saga has grown stronger.
“Dave became my mentor for understanding and appreciating the fragile nature of a karst ecosystem. He has given me the opportunity to learn from the best and to communicate effectively with area residents and visitors from around the world. My mantra has always been – understand, appreciate, and protect. If we understand the resource, we will learn to appreciate and to protect it. It is especially gratifying to empower students with the educational tools that they need to make a difference in their own hometowns. Many of these students have accepted the challenge to implement their own cleanup projects. Others have begun rewarding careers related to the conservation of our non-renewable resources. I always learn more from my students than I think I can ever teach them.”
Peggy graduated from Freed-Hardeman and Lipscomb University with degrees in history and education. Since that time, she has worked for nearly thirty years in formal and non-formal educational settings.
With deep family roots in Kentucky’s cave region, Peggy will quickly tell you that caving is in her blood. While her husband, Don, is a runner rather than a caver, he is a long-time ACCA volunteer. Together, they share their passion for education and conservation with the youngest members of their extended family.
She considers herself a life-long learner and appreciates all the opportunities provided by the ACCA to gain additional professional training. She is a certified Water Watch sampler, a long-time NSS member, a first cohort KY EXCEL member, a former Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE) board member, and a master certified professional environmental educator. She actively seeks to mentor younger cavers, teachers, and conservationists.
While working with the ACCA, Peggy served first as a tour guide and led the cave’s earliest eco-tours (caving adventures tours). Later, she served as the community outreach coordinator, Alternative Service Break (ASB) coordinator, and environmental education director.
Presently, she works part-time to co-facilitate karst workshops, to monitor the cave’s water quality, and to volunteer for conservation projects.
The American Cave Conservation Association (ACCA) is a National 501 (c) 3 Nonprofit Organization.
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