If all goes as planned, Grove City will be home to an African Savannah with grazing rhinos, zebras, giraffes by the summer of 2016. The owner of New Castle’s Living Treasures looks to open a new park that he says will be like nothing Pennsylvania has ever seen.
The animal park will be located on 140 acres on Route 258, just a couple miles from Grove City Premium Outlets. Owner Adam Guiher, who has already moved into a home on the property, says the new Living Treasures will be home to a North American and African bus safari, a pavilion for large events and weddings, and hopefully someday a rain forest themed water park, as well as unique lodging with tree-house rooms.
Also planned for the site, an adventure park designed by Tree Top Concepts. The company specializes in zip-line and rope courses that provide both thrill and education. “The zip-line and rope course would go over the North American exhibit and also a 15 acre wetlands area. Those on the course will be able to safely look down on buffalo, deer and other animals. Also, we’re planning a course for children 4 and up, and another for kids and adults that are 10 years and older,” said Guiher. “This will be the perfect place for field trips. I want kids and adults to fall in love with the environment when they come here.”
Guiher says there’s a lot of possibilities for the property. Everything from a bald eagle program that would rehabilitate injured eagles, to a cheetah breeding program. “Not everything has been decided because there’s a lot of approvals and permits you have to get first. But these programs may very well save certain species. If Africa kills off their native population of cheetahs or rhinos, it may be places like Living Treasures that helps repopulate those areas. We’d work with zoos around the country and the world, and we’d focus on rare species.” Guiher says the park will have white rhinos, which is expected to be a big draw.
The safari part of the park will include a 50 acre African Savannah. Visitors will take an open air bus to see the animals up close. There will also be a North American safari with more familiar animals, specifically buffalo and elk. “It’s good for people to also learn about the animals that are living in the environment around them.” Beside the African safari will be a pavilion space for large gatherings that would overlook the animals. “It would hold around 200 people and would be perfect for everything from family reunions to corporate events to weddings. It will be unique. There are not many places in the world that you can get married with antelope and zebras grazing behind you.” There will also be smaller Eurasian and South American exhibits.
The property will be constructed in stages. He hopes an indoor rain forest water park will be stage 2. “It would be like no other water park. The walls would be glass that overlook the African animals. So you may be watching giraffes as you go down a water slide.”
The big question for the project is if there will be lodging on the site. So far, Springfield township hasn’t approved a hotel, Guiher hopes that will change. “It wasn’t approved because is doesn’t fit current zoning, but I hope that will change.” He would like to have a rustic lodge on the North American side of the park, and an African style lodge that would include tree-house rooms. “There’s lots of mature trees on the property that would be perfect for a unique tree-house room. This is a place that people would travel to stay at, if Springfield Township allows it to be built. These would be high-quality resort hotels. I’m not looking to build a Super 8, but instead a natural and beautiful looking structure that fits into the African or North American environment. They’ll be really unique. Google “Giraffe Manor” in Kenya. This will be like nothing else in Pennsylvania, that’s for sure. We want to get people interested in wildlife.”
Studies on the property are being performed from May into June, and then he’ll have to wait for permits, with a hope to break ground later in the summer. He also will be building a bridge across a steam on the property, “bridge permits can take 6 or 9 months, even a year. And I look to use as many local contractors as possible,” says Guiher. “From construction to landscaping, I will look locally first.”
With more than 6 million people already traveling to the Grove City Premium Outlets every year, a place like this could help turn Grove City into more than a shopping trip, but a vacation destination. Families and couples would stay in the area longer, and spend more money here as well. Beth Black, the director of the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce agrees, “This could really be a game changer for Grove City. Right now we get a little traffic from the outlets into town. But if people come for a weekend or longer, we think Grove City could benefit. Downtown and the entire community can really capitalize on this.” Guiher expects 200,000 to 300,000 thousand visitors the first full season.