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The Wilds

The Wilds, a nonprofit animal conservation center located in Cumberland, Ohio, is building a 60-acre recreational vehicle campground funded by a $2 million American Rescue Plan grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and $3.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a few others partners.

The funding will play a significant role in attracting tourists to the park, which sits on 10,000 acres of reclaimed mine land. The EDA investment is set to be matched with $700,000 in local funds and is anticipated to create 100 jobs, retain 25 jobs and generate $500,000 in private investments.

As one of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization’s (Energy Communities IWG) top 25 priority communities, Appalachian Ohio has a history that reflects the decrease of coal mining. The Wilds, once home to indigenous people across the region, was mined for coal from the 1940s to the 1980s. Since the 1970s, coal production in Ohio has dropped nearly 59%. This timeline correlates with the kickstart of the Wilds’ development.

In the late 1970s, the initial concept of the Wilds was put into motion as a public-private partnership involving the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Development, zoos in Ohio, and the private sector. Beginning in 1984, the International Center for Preservation of Wild Animals Inc. (doing business as the Wilds) received approximately 9,154 acres of land from the Central Ohio Coal Company. Construction and species releases took place in the years following, with the Wilds opening for public tours in 1994. Since then, the Wilds has continued to provide economic opportunities to the region and has flourished, completing new additions to the facilities, partnering with various organizations and making history within the wild animal landscape.

The Energy Communities IWG is charged with advancing an interagency commitment of robust federal leadership in direct partnership with energy communities to foster economic investment and revitalization and ensure the creation of good-paying jobs. The Energy Communities IWG has identified billions of dollars in funding to support transitioning energy communities to help revive their economy for the future. Investments in projects such as the Wilds help ensure new jobs and opportunities in all pockets of America. 

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