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13,000 Acres of ‘ReCreation Land’ Becomes Ohio’s Newest State Park

by on July 18, 2018
AEP CEO Nick Akins (seated left) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dedicate the new Jesse Owens State Park & Wildlife Area during ceremonies July 17 in Ohio.

(Story by Scott Blake)

Restoring former mining sites to land that can be enjoyed by animals and people is a tremendous effort. For decades, this 60,000 acre swath of land in eastern Ohio provided fuel that powered the state. This week, a portion of that site was turned into Ohio’s newest state park.

Beginning in 1947, surface mining operations helped convert millions of tons of coal into electric power for Ohio customers. When the mining stopped in the early 2000s, AEP began efforts to reclaim the land and turn it into ReCreation Land, a place that attracts 100,000 visitors each year for fishing, canoeing, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.

More than 63 million trees were planted. A system of 350 lakes and ponds were created and stocked for fishing, and 380 campsites were built to help visitors experience nature. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has helped AEP manage the land. They ensure campers are following the rules and help maintain a network of hiking and horse trails.

A few years ago, AEP and ODNR began talks about how the land and the public would be better served if the state of Ohio purchased the land and turned it into a state park. The first step in that process took place July 17 when Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, and Julie Sloat, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer, joined Gov. John Kasich to complete the sale of a portion of 13,000 acres of land the state has agreed to purchase.

In addition to the new state park, visitors can experience the “Big Muskie” bucket, on display as part of the Miner’s Memorial, which was used in the mining operation.

“The Big Muskie could move 325 tons of dirt in a single bite,” said Sloat. “I recall seeing photos of the bucket with an entire high school marching band standing inside it. The Miner’s Memorial has been donated by AEP in recognition of the achievements of the men and women of AEP.”

The park, Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area, is poised to become one of the state’s largest parks once future sales are complete. Jesse Owens, an African American track and field athlete, won international attention for winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. His wins came in the face of Nazi rule under Hitler. Owens grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, after moving there at age 9. He was a dominant Ohio State University track athlete.

Two of the four campsites were included in this part of the sale. The two remaining campsites, as well as other areas of ReCreation Land, will remain free for public use. Those using ReCreation Land must have a permit and keep the permit with them while they are on AEP property.

From → News From AEP

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