COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investing more than $7 million in three former mine locations in Coshocton, Perry and Athens counties to revitalize and make safer through the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program (AMLER).
Those areas are considered potentially dangerous due to their past and have received preliminary approval from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to undergo cleanup. Before any of the projects begin, they must first receive final approval by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
Coshocton has received $2 million to fill in 6,000 feet of highwall left behind from a coal mine at the Richard Downing Airport.
According to airport administrator Marty Dobson, the target area is essentially a deep ditch along the perimeter of the airport grounds.
"It's where they went in and took the coal out, and they never reclaimed it," Dobson said. "So they never put the dirt back in where they took the coal out."
He explained that the ditch can be seen from the air.
Once repaired, the space, especially near the amphitheater, will be much safer for guests during performances.
Additionally, the grant includes economic impact money for the creation of a 7,040 square foot hangar for overnight aircraft storage.
Dobson said the hangar will be large enough to hold three medium-sized jets.
"We have no overnight hangar space for jets. When they fly in here for business, if they want to stay here, they don't because they can't leave their $15, 20 million aircraft sit outside in the weather," Dobson said.
Visitors will now have the option to rent overnight space from the Richard Downing Airport.
In Perry County, $4 million is being allocated to the Tecumseh Theater, located in the historic coal mining community of Shawnee.
"The goal is to bring the theater back to life and increase tourism, making Shawnee a small-town destination in southeast Ohio," ODNR said in a press release.
The grant also includes the reclamation of two abandoned mine land features on the edge of town.
Calls seeking comment to representatives from Wayne National Forest and Shawnee were not returned.
In both Perry and Athens County, $2.36 million is being dedicated to the construction of 20 miles of trail through the Wayne National Forest that will ultimately reroute existing trails away from the roadway.
The roadway spans between Shawnee and Burr Oak State Park.
According to ODNR, the project will make the trail safer for visitors and give a forested hiking experience.
Additionally, nine pedestrian bridges will be created over water, allowing hikers to circle Tecumseh Lake.
Three abandoned mine land features adjacent to the new trail will be reclaimed in the project.
This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: ODNR dedicates $7M to improve former coal mine properties