The skies were cloudy but the weather was warm enough on Thursday, June 18, the birthday of my wife, Carol. This day was a treat as my daughter, Betsy, and my grandson, Soren, were in for a visit. Carol had planned a trip north to visit The Wilds near Cumberland.
I had not visited The Wilds since it had been populated with endangered species. Almost 10,000 acres was donated to The Wilds by Central Ohio Coal Co. after being stripped for its coal. In the early 1990s, I first visited the newly completed visitor center as a judge for Central Ohio Coal's team competition. The land was already reclaimed and planted in grass.
On this trip I found the layout of the land, facilities, animals, more than impressive. We joined an open-air vehicle for a three-hour safari around the grounds. Almost immediately we saw our first greater one-horned Asian rhino with calf and then a herd of Sichuan takin, a goat-antelope mix from Tibet and China, were spotted in the tall grass. Eventually we observed several southern white rhino also.
Around another curve we paused to view four Bactrian camels. They were curious animals that almost made you laugh. There were two adult females, a calf and a large male of these two-humped species. While we were there a feeding truck stopped and shoveled some food on the ground. The adults sauntered over to get their share and the calf took advantage of the opportunity to nurse.
A herd of Banteng was soon discovered over a knoll. The females were reddish brown resembling Jersey cows. The males sported a dark brown coat and were easy to distinguish from the females.
The valleys were filled with peaceful dark green ponds. Pe're David deer, originally from China and now extinct in the wild, clamored in and out of the water. The elk-like antlers of the males were covered with moss and twigs, which reportedly makes them more attractive to females.
We stopped by one lake where four giraffes lounged and fed hordes of catfish most unsuccessfully fighting for a morsel. At our next stop we watched three pairs of cheetahs yawning, stretching and running short distances in several two to three acre pens. Other pens contained several African and Asian wild dogs.
Approaching thunderclaps warned us of a downpour. With the warning well noted we returned to a pavilion near the buses. Conveniently we switched to an enclosed bus for the trip back to the visitor center. When it was all over, we had seen almost all of the endangered animals The Wilds held. It was a good day.
Strip mining leaves a scar on the landscape. There are many examples of tortured hills and valleys across Ohio and West Virginia. At The Wilds, however, the gutted terrain was smoothed out and the topsoil replaced to create beautiful scenery. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Development along with Central Ohio Coal imagined and invented a use for the land that was creative with long-lasting value. With the right combination of committed stakeholders, it is possible for leaders to solve other serious problems. Every problem has multiple reasons and numerous potential solutions. Leaders just have to dream them into being along with a lot of hard work.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's completely revised, third printing of "The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.