A move to seize almost 10 acres by an Arkansas power company has affected 100 acres of a wild animal park in northwest Arkansas, its owners say.
Southwestern Electric Power Co. declared eminent domain on 9.7 acres of the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Gentry, Ark. The action seeks easement rights for the construction of a power line.
More than 100,000 visitors come each year to the 400-acre park, which is home to zebras, exotic birds, monkeys, camels, tigers, lions, bears, ostriches and a hippopotamus. It is near the border with Oklahoma, about 86 miles northeast of Tulsa.
According to the complaint — filed Aug. 14, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Benton County, Division II — the parties were unable to agree on just compensation for the land. The estimated value is $36,600, according to the clerk's office.
The power line project affects 100 acres known as Safari 4, said Leon Wilmouth, co-manager of the family-owned business.
Wilmouth said he has offered five or six alternative plans to the power company and all have been rejected. If the power company doesn't reroute the power line, the park will have to buy more property, he said.
“We have made adjustments in placement of the transmission structures to minimize the impact on the Safari 4 section,” power company spokesman Peter Main said in a prepared statement.
The company “has worked diligently to reach an agreement with the property owner to accommodate the ongoing operations of the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari,” Main said. “We do not believe the construction or the operation of the line would have a meaningful effect on the operation of the safari.”
The overhead power line is prompting Wilmouth to move the animals as a safety precaution for visitors and the animals, he said.
Wilmouth said there are between 300 to 400 animals on Safari 4, including white buffalo, red deer, Texas longhorn cattle, potbellied pigs and an endangered Mongolian wild ass.