Who was Cecil L. Gorley and why is the trail named after him?

(By John Bramel, For Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission)

You would not be walking this trail if not for a man named Cecil Lawton Gorley. So…who was he?

Born July 11, 1926 in the nearby Forkland area, he loved Marion County from his beginning. He spent 30-plus years as Marion County’s Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife conservation officer, from the 1960s into the 1990s. And he became legendary, even during his lifetime, for his honesty, his sportsman’s and woodsman’s skills, and his passion for protecting the land and its wildlife. And perhaps most of all, he became know for his passion for wanting all of us to love and protect the land and wildlife as much as he did.

“He was one of the finest people to ever walk the face of the earth,” said Shelton Young, a longtime Marion County law enforcement officer himself, and well known and avid sportsman and outdoor writer. “And what everyone would agree on regarding how he did his duties: He was fair.”

Young said everyone called him “Mr. Gorley.” Out of respect.

Mr. Gorley taught multiple generations of youth how to safely shoot a .22-caliber rifle and respect and honor good sportsman’s and stewardship traditions during years of Conservation Camps. And he ended the careers of several poachers.

In the early 1990s when the Lebanon Water Works Company began the Fagan Branch project to solve raw water shortage problems, Mr. Gorley began lobbying its board to also create recreational and fishing opportunities. As usual, he saw an opportunity for folks to enjoy nature, learn about it, and learn to love and appreciate it. In particular, he envisioned a trail.

On Jan. 16, 1995, 11 days after Cecil Lawton Gorley died, the board honored his visionary spirit and heart. They voted unanimously to name the trail after him.

In a hand-written letter to the board chairman on Oct. 19, 1994, Mr. Gorley deeply apologized for not being able to do volunteer work at the lake like he’d been doing. The radiation treatments for his cancer were simply devastating.

But in that letter is a sentence that really was written to all of us… .

“I hope the public will appreciate the lake and surrounding lands and will do their upmost to keep it clean.”

It was signed, “Your Friend, Cecil L. Gorley.”