AEP ReCreation Land
Morgan County is proud to be home of nearly 60,000 acres of reclaimed surface mined land open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, birding, horseback riding and more. Within this area, found 9 miles east of McConnelsville on SR 78, are 380 campsites, 640 lakes and ponds along with mountain bike and equestrian trails. Miner’s Memorial Park (home to the Big Muskie Bucket) is also located within the ReCreation Land. For information or to obtain a free permit 740-962-1205, www.aep.com/environmental/recreation/recland/
Beyond Environmental Compliance
American Electric Power’s commitment to responsible environmental practices is reflected in words and actions. The company’s adoption of a corporate wide Environmental Leadership Goal pledges it to seek the most effective ways to protect and enhance the environment while providing reliable electricity at a competitive cost. ReCreation Land is just one excellent example of how AEP strives to go beyond complying with legal requirements. A variety of conservation organizations have recognized AEP for its voluntary Outdoor Recreation beyond what reclamation laws mandate. This land not only has been reclaimed, it’s been recreated into a recreational destination for you and your family to enjoy.
Agriculture dominated the economy here until the 1940s when harvests dwindled, the population declined and land values dropped. But such farm country is often good coal country. And here, beneath layers of clay, limestone and shale, lie some of Ohio’s richest coal reserves. This coal is important in the production of electricity and in 1947, Central Ohio Coal Company, an AEP subsidiary, began mining here and has moved more than 2 billion cubic yards of earth – eight times more than the Panama Canal – yielding 110 million tons of coal.
Mining The Land
Mining coal that may be buried as deep as 180 feet is a massive operation. First, trees and vegetation on the surface of the land are removed. The merchantable saw timber and pulpwood is harvested and sold to lumber and paper mills. Topsoil is carefully collected and taken to storage areas, where it remains until mining is completed and reclamation of the land begins. To expose the seam of coal, hundreds of thousands of tons of overburden – the earth that lies above the coal – must be removed.
Reclamation of the land begins almost immediately once mining is completed. Surface mining and reclamation laws during 1940 through 1972 required that trees be planted as the final vegetative cover. That type of reclamation produced the lovely forested hills and valleys that make up the heart of ReCreation Land and includes 63 million trees which have been planted. In 1972 new surface mining and reclamation laws were enacted that now result in gently rolling grasslands that are well suited for pasture or hayland.
Under current reclamation practices, the earth that was removed from over the coal seam is put back into place. The land is backfilled and graded to create the contours designated in the reclamation plans. Water run-offs, created to protect against soil erosion, feed into the ponds and lakes built into the reclaimed land. The topsoil that was removed before the land was mined is distributed over the area; fertilizers are used to improve the quality of the soil. Finally, the area is sown with a variety of grasses, which protect the soil from erosion and restore the land for useful purposes. Each year, several hundred acres are reclaimed in these Southeast Ohio coal fields.
Since 1981, AEP has received over 45 land management and habitat awards for its land Outdoor Recreation activities from various organizations, including the US Department of Interior, the US Department of Energy, Edison Electric Institute, American Forest Council, National Wild Turkey Federation, Renew America, the Ohio Mining and Reclamation Association, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Ohio Forestry Association, Wildlife Habitat Council, and the Buckeye Trail Association.
Central Ohio Coal Company’s exemplary reclamation has accounted for 28 of these awards. In 1998, ReCreation Land was recognized by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as the largest single outdoor recreation facility in Ohio. In 1999, the 30,000 acres of ReCreation Land were certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
Reclamation can produce a remarkable transformation. Thanks to the reclamation work carried out in the past, what was once generally marginal land is now a choice vacation area. ReCreation Land is a special place where those with an appreciation of the great outdoors can come and experience the beauty and tranquility of nature.
The rolling hills, trees and grasslands provide a sheltering habitat for wildlife and a variety of recreational opportunities. A 34,000-acre recreation area in parts of four counties, ReCreation Land features 380 campsites and more than 350 lakes and ponds available for public use at no charge. More than 100,000 people visit here each year, providing an estimated social and economic benefit in excess of $5 million. We hope you enjoy your visit.