With construction well underway at the Appalachian Wildlife Center, the men responsible visited Pineville Wednesday to give an update and answer questions from the community.
A large crowd turned out to hear from Appalachian Wildlife Foundation president David Ledford and chairman Frank Allen.
“It’s time to start getting ready for all of this,” Ledford said. “That’s the message I’m here to pass on.”
The current plan calls for the Center to open on June 4, 2021 with hiring starting in the fourth quarter of 2020.
“We’ve know for a long time that it was going to happen. Now we’re enthused that people are starting to pay attention and the have the opportunity to get ready,” said Appalachian Wildlife Foundation chairman Frank Allen. “We’re going to be bringing 850,000 new tourists — potential customers — to the area four years from today.”
Those in attendance included Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock, Pineville Mayor Scott Madon and Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson, along with State Rep. Adam Bowling and several local business and community leaders.
“There has been a lot of doubt, and I understand that, but now is the time for that doubt to be gone,” Brock said. “We as a community need to get together and get ready for this. I don’t know that we’re fully ready to handle it.
“People don’t realize what an enormous impact this is going to have on our community. I want more folks to get involved and realize what it taking place here,” Brock continued. “There’s so much misinformation that gets distributed with any big project. Having this many people show up to meet with the developers and ask questions, now we’re going to get honest and correct information out there.”
The 12,000 acre Wildlife Center is home to an abundance of free roaming wildlife including elk, deer, black bear, bobcat, coyote, wild turkey, hundreds of species of birds and numerous small mammals.
The AWS recently announced plans to have an open air zoo as well as a petting zoo a the facility. The Center will also include two museums, a theater, birders hall, classrooms, restaurant, gift shop, artisans hall, the Trailblazers monuments park, an improved nature trail, foot trails and numerous other features.
The Appalachian Wildlife Center is being built and operated by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, a Corbin, Kentucky based nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization.
“A lot of people haven’t been up there to see what’s happening. They’ve just seen the pictures on facebook or whatever,” Madon said. “It’s just a super undertaking, what they’re trying to do up there and the impact it’s going to have on our community is going to be unbelievable. Hopefully, the local people will embrace it a little bit more. I know some people are still upset about losing the four-wheeler part of it, but long-term this is going to be a really good thing for our county.”
“We’ve had an excellent crowd out today, which is very encouraging and shows a lot of enthusiasm,” Nelson said. “As the project gets further along we should have more enthusiasm. If it’s half of what they say it’s going to be it’s going to be a tremendous asset to Bell County and the surrounding counties.”