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How an energy company turned a strip mine into a massive park

Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources is now thinking of purchasing the rehabbed land for permanent public use.

Strip mining is one of the most environmentally unfriendly ways we extract resources from the earth, tearing up enormous swaths of land to access the valuable minerals buried underneath. In some cases, the practice leaves thousands of acres covered in barren waste rock incapable of sustaining plant or animal life.

But that’s far from the case in Eno, Ohio, where 60,000 acres of a former strip mine site have been transformed into the state’s largest outdoor recreation area. Where decades of destructive mining have excavated some 2 billion cubic yards of waste earth, visitors now find lush woods, grassy meadows, hiking trails, 400 campsites, and roughly 700 lakes and ponds offering some of the best fishing in Ohio.

The mine closed in 2001, but efforts to rehab its terrain started not long after the first strip mining began in 1947. Over the years, some 65 million new trees were planted to restore the landscape after the massive coal excavators moved on to other veins. Now, landowner American Electric Power (AEP) has made the area freely accessible to the public and rechristened it the ReCreation Land.

"Since we have extracted one resource, we have been putting another resource back, with tree planting that started back in the 1940s," said AEP forester Brian Cox. "We’ve created an exceptional recreation area and opened it up for folks to use and enjoy."

Today, some 105,000 people visit the park each year, and it’s a popular hunting and fishing destination. But AEP isn’t really in the business of parks and is considering selling off the property to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Source: Toledo Blade