Southeastern Kentucky is part of an Appalachian region that has abundant wildlife, spectacular wild lands and a deep and rich history. This is where Daniel Boone and the long hunters first ventured west from Virginia, and this is where mountain top removal coal mining was developed in the 1970s.
Now, the specific location where controversial mountain top removal coal mining was developed over forty years ago is home to plentiful wildlife, a wide array of plant life, beautiful landscapes and magnificent views. It will be the home of the Appalachian Wildlife Center.
The Wildlife Center will be a popular, family-friendly tourist attraction and a premier education facility. The Center will attract paid attendance of over 850,000 annually, and the economic impact of those visitors will be annual spending in the region of over $170MM and the creation of over 2,900 much-needed jobs.
While the site is home to many species of wildlife, elk will be featured as the marquis wildlife species. Elk are a proven ecotourism super-magnet wherever elk viewing opportunities exist, and Kentucky is home to the largest wild elk population east of the Rocky Mountains. In September 2010 The Elk Country Visitor Center opened in Benezette, Pennsylvania. It is similar, though much smaller facility than the Appalachian Wildlife Center. In just the last quarter of 2010, the Benezette venue attracted 50,000 visitors from 46 states and 16 countries. In 2017 it attracted over 480,000 visitors. The only activities it offers are viewing and learning about elk.
The site for the Appalachian Wildlife Center is a 19 square mile tract in Bell County, Kentucky. It is located within a 20-minute drive of Cumberland Gap National Park which attracts over 900,000 visitors each year, and within a 2-hour drive of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood and Gatlinburg, TN, as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which collectively attracts over 15,000,000 visitors annually.
In addition to viewing elk and other wildlife, activities and attractions at The Center will include bird watching, hiking, horse-drawn wagon rides, guided tours, a theater, museums and wildlife displays, an open-air zoo, a petting zoo, bird observatories, a bison enclosure, a speaker and seminars program, and an artisans market where artists and craftsmen from across the nation can display and sell their works.
A wildlife education program is being developed to feature both remote learning and on-site classroom programs that will reach 100,000 students annually. The program will be accredited in at least three states, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
The Center will feature demonstration and research sites where habitat restoration for a variety of wildlife species will be implemented. Agricultural research and demonstrations on the uses of prior coal mine lands will include fruit tree orchards, vineyards, honeybees, mushrooms, hops, and American chestnuts.
The Appalachian Wildlife Center will be self-sustaining, achieving positive cash flow from admission fees and on-site sales in the second year of operation. Operating revenues will fund a substantial scholarship program and robust research efforts. The Center has strong support at the federal, state, county and local levels of government and is scheduled to open to the public in the summer of 2021.
The Center is being developed by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, a Kentucky 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization based in Corbin, Kentucky.
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