Lake Vesuvius and the rest of the Wayne National Forest is celebrating 75 years of recreation and forestry management in southeast Ohio.
Friday is the 75th anniversary for the forest, which will celebrate throughout the coming year with various activities.
On Friday, several employees will participate in local community service projects. In the spring, the forest is planning an event to celebrate its anniversary at its forest headquarters in Athens County.
The planning for the forest started in 1934, when leaders passed the Consent Act of 1934, allowing the federal government to begin purchasing public lands. On Nov. 12, 1935, with the purchase of almost 43 acres in Lawrence County, a national forest was born.
Since the first land purchase, the forest has grown to more than 241,000 acres with lands in 12 counties. Today, a work force of 70 full-time employees manages the forest for a number of multiple uses, including recreation, timber, minerals, water, grazing, fish and wildlife.
The forest falls under the U.S. Forest Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has existed for more than 100 years.
It is one of 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands and 222 research and experimental forests, as well as other special areas, covering more than 192 million acres of public land in the United States.
In the last 75 years, the forest has purchased lands that were so impacted by destructive logging, mining and agriculture that nobody else wanted the land. Some of the lands were even abandoned and were tax delinquent. Once purchased, the first priorities became erosion control, reforestation, control of wildfires and the reintroduction of wildlife species.
A forest once bare of trees from its early days is now reforested with trees that are helping improve the habitat for wildlife. Since 2001, the forest has completed 32 abandoned mine land projects that have improved the water quality for area watersheds. Today, more than 500,000 visitors come annually to experience the great outdoors. From Ironton to Marietta and Nelsonville, the forest has invested in recreation opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hike and bike. In the early 1990s, the forest opened a designated off-highway vehicle trail system visited by thousands from across the region and helping the local economy.