BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- A proposed animal theme park owned by TV host Jim Fowler has crossed a major hurdle this week when it won government funding for water and sewage service.
The U.S. Economic Development Authority has awarded a $1.5 million grant to Glynn County to provide water and sewer service to Mr. Fowler's resort in northern Glynn County.
Mr. Fowler, former host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, and his partners in Parks and Wildlife Services, or PAWS, have said they want to build an 1,800-acre wildlife resort along Interstate 95 just inside the county line.
The county will begin construction on the water and sewer line extensions early next year and construction will begin on the park in April.
The first phase of the park, which will be called Jim Fowler's Wildlife Resort for Animals and People, should open in May 2001 and should be finished 10 years after start-up, he said.
The park will feature wide-open spaces that will benefit both animals and people, Mr. Fowler said.
"I call myself a human environmentalist. The human being can't have quality of life without open spaces," he said. "The animals are going to have a really good deal."
The park will be unlike most others in the country in that most of the barriers will be unseen, including hidden fences and natural barriers.
None of the animals will be taken from the wild; all will have been orphaned, born in captivity or confiscated from illegal captivity or unfit conditions.
Vernon Martin, executive director of the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center, said the grant is the linchpin in a project that will provide an enormous economic impact in the area.
There will be as much as $84 million in capital expenditures inside the park itself and as much as $50 million in surrounding developments to serve visitors, he said.
The park will generate 500 permanent jobs in its first five years and 1,400 in the second five-year phase with annual incomes totaling $42.5 million, Mr. Martin said. The facility is expected to require 1,727 construction jobs over a seven-year period.