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ODNR Turns Abandoned Mine Land into Camping Area for The Wilds

Project is part of a larger vision to create the ultimate outdoor adventure corridor.

CUMBERLAND, Ohio – Today, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) unveiled plans to expand and improve tourism along the Interstate 70 corridor, by helping to transform abandoned mine lands (AML) into a brand-new campground for The Wilds.  Once complete, this area will be the first of its kind spot for campers at The Wilds.

“It has been exciting to see this conservation and recreation project come together,” Governor Mike DeWine said.  “Not only will this transformation make a once potentially hazardous area safe, but it also opens The Wilds up for more people to experience and enjoy.”

The new campground, built using funding from the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, will have space for recreational vehicle and primitive camping.  ODNR is responsible for the first phase which includes groundwork for the 59-acre project.  Once finished, the campground will include:

  • 46 concrete pads for RV or large trailers
  • 27 stone parking areas for primitive campers
  • 50 parking spaces
  • 1.75 miles of roads from a public road through the campground site

The campground is the first step in a masterplan to create an “ecotourism corridor”, connecting places like The Wilds with Salt Fork State Park, the Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area, Burr Oak State Park, parts of the Buckeye Trail, and more.

“We are working on a plan that will create an unparalleled outdoor experience within reach of all Ohioans,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said.  “By connecting such amazing outdoor areas, we hope to open up a way for people to find their own adventure in any one of the parks or wildlife areas.”

The Wilds was recognized by the USA Today as the #2 Safari Park in North America in 2022.  Guests have the option to stay the night at the lodge, cabins, or the outpost, but this campground will be the first of its kind for the attraction.

“We are tremendously grateful for the partnership and support of these agencies,” Vice President at The Wilds Dr. Joe Smith said. “Together, we are increasing opportunities for adventure seekers to experience nature while supporting our local economy.”

Construction of the new campground began in August and ODNR’s portion is expected to be complete in November of this year.  Total cost is estimated at just over $2.1 million.

ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management (MRM) has been investing and working diligently to transform AML sites into safe and enjoyable land for Ohioans to enjoy.  In Jefferson County, the Friendship Park Highwall Reclamation created more park acres, more hiking trails, and wetland area where wildlife can thrive.  In Harrison County, The Sally Buffalo Park projects eliminated more than 2,200 feet of dangerous highwall, clearing the way for expanded campground facilities. Current projects and program information can be found here.

ODNR administers the federal AML program. Prior to 1977, federal statute did not require restoration of desirable environmental conditions to coal mined lands.

The Division of Mineral Resources Management oversees the safe and environmentally sound development and restoration of mineral and fossil fuel extraction sites. The division also restores abandoned mine land, enforces mining safety laws, and ensures the protection of citizens, land, and water resources.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.