COLUMBUS — Officials in Ohio have struck a deal with American Electric Power that could lead to the state’s most significant public recreation expansion in recent memory.
Natural Resources Director James Zehringer told The Associated Press that the Department of Natural Resources and AEP signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday opening negotiations on the deal.
The document expresses the state’s intent to purchase a major portion of a 60,000-acre parcel owned by AEP in eastern Ohio, known as ReCreation Land, Zehringer said.
“Our department and AEP have worked in a longstanding partnership to promote public access to AEP ReCreation Land,” Zehringer said in prepared remarks. “Now we continue as partners to ensure these unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities are preserved for generations of Ohioans to come.”
He said all that remains to be done is to finalize titling and obtain the necessary appraisals.
The land spans portions of Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Noble counties. It would be used for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, Zehringer said, including hunting and fishing.
The land was previously used for surface mining of coal. The power company has reclaimed the property in recent years and opened it up to public access for camping and other types of outdoor recreation.
Republican Gov. John Kasich said the deal potentially could lead to greater opportunities for Ohioans and out-of-state visitors to explore and enjoy the outdoors.
“An opportunity to acquire and protect such a large, open expanse of land for public recreation is rare,” the governor said in a statement.