College Green

Exploring environmental news in Southeast Ohio

The Wilds’ Cliffside Camping addition offers new adveture

Posted by collegegreenou on October 15, 2009

The Wilds is a park established on a reclaimed strip mine. It provides visitors with an "African safari" experience without needing to leave Ohio. Photo by Devon Antonetti

The Wilds is a park established on a reclaimed strip mine. It provides visitors with an "African safari" experience without needing to leave Ohio. Photo by Devon Antonetti

By Devon Antonetti
CG Lifestyles and People
da204906@ohio.edu

Luxury yurts, exotic safari tours, African animals grazing across 14 square miles of prairie and a private concierge serving drinks to you and your partner around a community fire pit — it may be hard to believe this experience is only an hour drive from Athens. Cumberland, in nearby Muskingum County, is host to The Wilds, a unique nature preserve and conservation center. Its recently-opened Nomad Ridge gives visitors an “immersive experience” that lets them escape the mundane for a night.

Since its opening, The Wilds has worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Development, Ohio zoos and private companies to study environmental issues that affect the area. American Electric Power donated the reclaimed strip-mining land in 1986, and in 1994, The Wilds became home to more than 25 wildlife species.

Unlike most other wildlife conservation centers, The Wilds works to create the most natural habitat possible for its non-native species, which include African and Asian rhinos, zebras, wild horses and camels. “On a global scale, we’re trying to meet the needs of different species and habitats,” Marketing Director Toni Kellar said.

The center also is designed to increase public knowledge on environmental and wildlife issues. Various safaris offer guests different experiences, from open-air buses and closed-air transport buses, to sunset safaris and “Wildside” safaris, where guests can feed giraffes from a private truck. Family and educational camps, themed weekends, and now, private overnight lodgings are available for guests.

The Wilds have added yurts, portable dwellings commonly used in Asia, to its grounds. The 11 yurts at The Wilds stong along a 1,200-foot cliff overlooking the rest of the center. Photo by Devon Antonetti

The Wilds have added yurts, portable dwellings commonly used in Asia, to its grounds. The 11 yurts at The Wilds stong along a 1,200-foot cliff overlooking the rest of the center. Photo by Devon Antonetti

The Nomad Ridge, a “luxury tented-camp” area, opened in July and offers adult guests an overnight experience seemingly miles from Ohio. Since opening, the Ridge has been booked nearly every weekend and the center has seen an overall increase in visitors. The Ridge consists of 10 woodland yurts, canvas-and-wood tent structures used in Asia, and one grand yurt built along a 1,200 foot-high cliff overlooking the park.

Each yurt has Asian-themed décor, bamboo foundation and private bathroom. A common deck with fire pit is also available for visitors to meet other guests and relax and look out over the park.

“Evening is the most extraordinary part. You’ll be sitting around the fire, miles from traffic and light pollution. Listening to crickets and katydids soundscape is like nothing you’ve heard before,” Kellar said.

Two meals prepared by a personal chef, concierge service and a safari tour of choice are included in the overnight package. Guests, however, must be 21 or older with a maximum of two guests per yurt.

“We tried to maintain serenity and allow guests to immerse themselves in an adult-only experience,” Kellar said. “Also, the environment on the cliff would never be conducive to having children (at the site).”

Guests have come from all over Ohio, as well as the rest of the country, to visit the Nomad Ridge. Recent guests have included couples from Pa., Ga. and Ariz.

Ray Faczan, a 64-year-old retiree from Pa., and his wife Linda recently visited the Ridge and took an open-air safari.

“I was surprised with the variety of animals,” he said. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and see the rhinos up close, but there was a great opportunity right in Ohio.”

The Wilds' staff decorated each of the yurts through Asian and African influences. Photo by Devon Antonetti

The Wilds' staff decorated each of the yurts through Asian and African influences. Photo by Devon Antonetti

Faczan, who plans to return to The Wilds with friends in the future, also noted a greater appreciation for wildlife and the environment.

“I try to live ‘green’ and have great appreciation for the environment, but I definitely have a better sense of what we need to do to preserve for our future,” Faczan said.

After what they deemed a successful, exciting summer, the staff at The Wilds will be using guest feedback to improve accommodations. Although it will be closed from the end of October through May, staff members are already eager for next season’s reopening.

“Guests seem to want discounted weekday rates and longer stay options” at the Ridge, Kellar said. “We take into consideration everyone’s comments. Being that we’re still in the first year, we want to use winter to fine-tune our database,” Kellar said.

For the remainder of fall, the center will be offering weekday visitors 20 percent off their stay at the Ridge, and with summer at an end, chances to stay at The Wilds are numbered.

With growing environmental concerns and a sagging economy, a chance to escape may be closer than you realize.

Editor’s Note: The Nomad Ridges will close at the end of October, I apologize for the inconveniece of not having published this story sooner. I’m sorry.

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One Response to “The Wilds’ Cliffside Camping addition offers new adveture”

  1. This post was very useful. Found your site looking for something totally different – but I just have to book mark it anyways.

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