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(Zaleski) — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has created a new space for recreation where abandoned mine land (AML) hazards existed in Vinton County. Tuesday, ODNR Director Mary Mertz unveiled the Moonville Rail Trail at Ingham’s AML Economic Revitalization project.
“This area has been through a complete transformation and is now ready to welcome people onto its trails,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “People looking to enjoy the outdoors now have a new place to do things like hike, bike, or horseback ride.”
The Moonville Rail Trail is a 16-mile-long tourist destination in Vinton and Athens Counties that takes visitors through the beautiful woodlands of southeast Ohio, including Zaleski State Forest. This two-phase project improved 4.1 miles of trail and helped open up 12.2 miles of rail-trail from Zaleski to New Marshfield, Ohio.
“We are so grateful for ODNR’s assistance that helped make this trail a reality,” Moonville Rail Trail Association President Brian Blair said. “This trail not only lets us share the beauty of Zaleski State Forest but will also boost tourism in Vinton County.”
ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management worked with a variety of local and regional partners to design and build seven new bridges and close AML openings. Partners include:
- Moonville Rail Trail Association
- Vinton County Commissioners
- Vinton County Development Department
- Athens County Commissioners
- Raccoon Creek Partnership
- Zaleski State Forest
- Lake Hope State Park
- Uncle Bucks Riding Stable
- Athens County Planning Office
- Vinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Cost of this project was $1.65 million. It was funded through the AML Economic Revitalization program. This program was created from federal funds set aside to specifically address AML issues and to generate economic growth in six Appalachian states and 3 Native American tribes that are experiencing job loss and economic decline related to reduced coal production.
ODNR administers both a state and federal AML program. Prior to 1972, Ohio statute did not require restoration of desirable environmental conditions to surface mined areas. In August 2019, ODNR’s AML program received the Abandoned Mind Land Reclamation Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior for its work on the Dessecker Mine Project in Tuscarawas County.
The Division of Mineral Resources Management oversees the safe and environmentally sound development and restoration of mineral and fossil fuel extraction sites. The division also restores abandoned mine land, enforces mining safety laws, and ensures the protection of citizens, land and water resources.