Agriculture dominated the economy of southeastern Ohio's Morgan County until the 1940s when harvests dwindled, the population declined, and land values dropped. Surface mining the area's rich underground coal deposits replaced agriculture as the major industry and revitalized the declining local economy. As the nation's demand for electricity grew over the next half-century, so did the demand for coal as fuel for nearby power generation plants. During mining's heyday in the 1960s to the late 1980s, American Electric Power's former Central Ohio Coal Company subsidiary employed nearly 1,000 people. Nearby communities-such as Cumberland, Caldwell and Chandlersville-thrived. As time passed, however, the robust coal industry was hit hard by environmental regulations that reduced the market for the area's high-sulfur coal. In turn, mine work forces shrank considerably and local businesses closed.(Continued on other side)
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While the future of southeastern Ohio's coal industry may be unknown, there is no doubt about the legacy the industry left behind in ReCreation Land. Mined and reclaimed by Central Ohio Coal, ReCreation Land is a 30,000-acre wooded wonderland and an outstanding example of environmental stewardship. AEP began reclaiming lands it mined in the early 1940s-long before laws requiring reclamation were passed. ReCreation Land not only captures the area's surface mining history, it is an outdoor recreational area that features campsites and stocked lakes and ponds. Miner's Memorial Park is AEP's tribute to the area's mining industry and the men and women who dedicated their lives to that industry. Because of the long-term economic effects and the lasting legacy left behind by this industry, it is fitting that ReCreation Land is recognized for its historical significance to the coal industry and to southeastern Ohio.