The Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia just scored big again with another large pool of funds for outdoor recreation in the region.
The Appalachian Region Commission allocated $1.5 million to the organization to invest in natural and cultural assets across seven aoutheast Ohio counties and encourage small business expansion and job creation, ORCA announced Friday.
The award is part of a $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, according to a release.
ORCA, which manages the development and operations of the Baileys Trail System, recently received $2 million in the state’s biennial budget.
POWER allocates federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries, according to a release. The $46.4 million awarded Friday is projected to create or retain over 9,306 jobs, attract nearly $525 million private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across southeast Ohio.
Partners included in the new funding are Wayne National Forest, Buckeye Trail Association, ACEnet, Ohio’s Winding Road, Rural Action, Athens County Economic Development Council, and the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the release said.
Among the projects the funding will support are an assessment of recreation assets across seven counties; destination signage and regional marketing for Ohio’s Winding Road tourism program; a conference on Ohio’s recreation economy; trail enhancements in the Wayne National Forest; expansion of the Buckeye Trail Association’s Trail Town program; volunteer maintenance and youth engagement for Athens Bicycle Club; and support for entrepreneurs, internships, and summer jobs for youth.
ARC Co-Chair Gayle Manchin said the downturn of the coal industry has wreaked havoc on the region. She said these funds will help communities
“Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access,” Manchin said in a statement. “These investments in our Appalachian coal impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”
ORCA Executive Director Jessie Powers said the ARC/POWER award will provide critical funding for ORCA to expand its sustainable economic diversification strategy.
“As the great-granddaughter of a Chauncey coal miner, I’m thrilled to continue the work of reimagining and repurposing former coal lands across Southeast Ohio into new assets — like the Baileys Trail System — for a sustainable future,” Powers said in a statement
ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to monitor, analyze and evaluate the investments, according to a release.
A report published Friday in conjunction with the announcement highlighted 72 stories representing 44 unique POWER projects funded between fiscal years 2015-2020 to determine the most significant changes that occurred as a result of POWER.
The evaluation found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased, the release said. Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $284 million in 320 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties, a release said.
The Baileys Trail system also recently partnered with the Village of Chauncey and Third Sun Solar, which donated a roof-mounted solar array to the top of the restroom facility at the Chauncey-Dover community park.
Third Sun Solar will begin the solar energy installation in January of 2022. The addition of a solar array to the restroom facility will reduce Chauncey’s utility costs for the next two decades or more, a release said.
Chauncey Mayor Amy Renner thanked Third Sun Solar for the environmentally progressive donation to the park.
“We are incredibly grateful for the donation of the solar array by Third Sun Solar to the Chauncey-Dover Community Park that was once the site of the Chauncey mines,” Renner said. “It’s important to us while repurposing the land for recreational use that it be done in a sustainable and responsible manner including adopting a zero waste event policy, so the implementation of solar energy is a great addition to our vision.”