CUMBERLAND – Earlier this week, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded The Wilds a $2.2 million grant to build a 60-acre recreational vehicle campground.
This grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan.
This grant will not only help attract tourists to The Wilds, which is located on reclaimed coal mine land along the Appalachian Byway and boost the local economy by attracting additional visitors to Ohio’s Appalachian region.
The EDA investment will be matched with additional funds secured from public and private sources, including private donors, the State of Ohio, and Muskingum County. The Wild’s leadership hope additional funds will be committed to the project in the upcoming state capital budget process. The EDA grant will allow The Wilds to build the infrastructure basics like a check-in station, shower/bathroom facilities, and utilities to the campsites.
The additional funding from the state would allow The Wilds to build a second restroom/shower facility, a camp store, a picnic pavilion, and several sports courts.
“We are so thankful for this grant. This funding will allow us to create a wonderful campground for families to enjoy, and continue to build on our strategic goal of making The Wilds a year-round conservation education destination,” said Tom Schmid President/CEO of the Columbus Zoo Family of Parks.
The Wilds is a gem in an area of Ohio that has been greatly impacted by the downturn in the coal industry. The Wilds sits on almost 10,000 acres of lush landscapes that attract nearly 120,000 visitors annually, with this number continuously growing. The Wilds operates tours, overnight accommodations, special events, and summer camps as a source of revenue.
“This funding will not only bring a much-needed economic boost to the region, it also will bring many more people in touch with The Wilds’ unique experiences, seeing and learning about some of the world’s most endangered species, such as southern white rhino, scimitar horned oryx, African painted dogs, and giraffes," said Dr. Joe Smith, Vice President of The Wilds.
"We are proud of the scientific and conservation work our team members are doing at The Wilds.”
This project is funded under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program. EDA awarded $510 million in grants to all 50 states and territories in 2021. The two programs are designed to accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors.
About The Wilds
The Wilds, one of the largest conservation centers in North America, is home to rare and endangered animals from around the world along with hundreds of indigenous species. The mission of The Wilds, a nonprofit organization managed by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, is to lead and inspire by connecting people and wildlife.
The Wilds is located at 14000 International Road in Cumberland, Ohio, about 90 minutes east of Columbus. Normal hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day from May through September, and on Saturdays and Sundays in October. For more information, visit TheWilds.org.