- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A foundation working to develop a southeastern Kentucky wildlife center featuring the country’s largest elk restoration and viewing effort has been awarded a grant to build water lines to the planned facility, the White House announced.

The Appalachian Wildlife Center was awarded the $1.8 million grant for the planned facility on a reclaimed surface mine in Bell County, the Lexington Herald-Leader (https://bit.ly/2eUJFbY ) reported.

The grant comes from an initiative aimed at boosting the economy in places struggling from a downturn in the coal economy.

The wildlife center will position southeast Kentucky and adjoining areas as a national tourist attraction, the White House said.

The foundation has bought 500 acres for the wildlife center, signed a long-term lease for 12,000 surrounding acres and is working to line up money to build facilities. It is working to get the center open in 2019 and projects the attraction will draw more than 600,000 visitors annually after five years. If so, that would boost the economic impact of tourism in the area by tens of millions of dollars.

The center is to include a conservation center with natural history and taxidermy displays; bird-watching; hiking trails; a 15-mile driving trail; a theater; a local artisan market; research and conference space; and an astronomy pavilion.

The plan envisions elk watching as a key attraction, but black bear, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and more than 240 species of birds inhabit the site, according to the foundation.

The White House also announced a grant of $1 million to the Berea-based Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises for a project to improve the energy efficiency of homes owned by low-income people in nine eastern Kentucky counties.

Hazard Community and Technical College and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development are partners in the project, which will also provide business and training opportunities in home weatherization.

The White House said the project will create or retain 119 jobs and improve more than 270 houses.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com


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