Gov. Mike DeWine announced the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and American Electric Power (AEP) have reached an agreement that will secure more than 31,000 acres of public land in perpetuity for conservation and outdoor recreation. Ohio also has the option to purchase 18,500 more acres in the area by June 2023, which could bring the total close to 60,000 acres.
The 31,000 acres is in Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, and Guernsey counties in eastern Ohio and will be acquired in parcels over the next two years.
“This is an historic addition to Ohio’s public lands,” said Gov. DeWine. “With this acquisition, we ensure that all of our citizens and future generations will continue to enjoy this scenic area and its resources.”
The area has long been a popular destination for hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking. The property has 24 continuous miles of the Buckeye Trail traversing the area and includes 350 lakes and ponds and six campgrounds. It adjoins the existing Jesse Owens State Park.
ODNR’s most recent purchase was completed two weeks ago for 4,213 acres. The additional 31,443 acres will be acquired in six installments starting March 2020. Combined with ODNR’s initial purchase of 5,713 acres in June 2018, a total of 41,369 acres of the land will be in public possession within two years.
Funding for the project comes from $47 million in capital improvement funds appropriated in July by the Ohio General Assembly through House Bill 166. Additionally, more than 180 different local Ohio conservation and sportsmen clubs have pledged money and support toward the purchase.
The Division of Wildlife has had a management agreement on the land since 1962. Over these 57 years, the Division of Wildlife has provided law enforcement and fish and wildlife management on the property. This acquisition will guarantee outdoor enthusiasts continue to have access to the land now and in the future.