There is something in the planning stages in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania that is sure to make off-road fans happy. Called the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, the project consists of 6,000 acres of land that had formerly been used for mining. The proposed facility will have off-road trails and rock crawling and OHV play areas.
Moreover, the recreation area will include a zip line and will also be open to horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling and cross country skiing and hunting during the winter. Camp sites and parking facilities for RV campers are also planned.
The Northumberland County Board of Commissioners owns the land, explained Patrick Mack, director of the Northumberland County Planning Department. “The Commissioners came to own the property through defaulted taxes from decades ago,” explained Mack. “It was economically attractive for the Commissioners to maintain ownership because they earn royalty fees when the mineral reserves are extracted.”
Mining had taken place on various parcels of the property which has left the terrain in a condition ideal for off-road use. However, not all of the area was mined. A large portion has been left vacant and is underdeveloped, and these areas are ideal for the creation of multi-use trails as well as the infrastructure necessary to accommodate people who come to the park.
The idea of constructing an OHV facility in this area goes back about 15 years. It was first advocated by Barry Yarworth, an avid local off-road rider and member of the county’s steering committee. “He began shaking the trees to get the committee to ponder the idea of developing the site into a world-class OHV project,” said Mack. “It wasn’t until the current Northumberland County Board of Commissioners took office that the project gained any momentum.”
Cooperation between a number of factions was the main reason why the idea gained support. First, many different municipalities have jurisdiction over the territory so they needed to be included in the development of any plans. Moreover, the members of the Board of Commissioners took care to involve the townspeople in the process. “We held individual meetings with each of the municipalities to see whether they’d be interested in having their communities be part of our proposed OHV project,” said Mack. “Every township saw the potential that this project could bring to local business owners and embraced the idea. In addition, meetings with local township leaders began last year and the project has gained popularity ever since.”
Moreover, it became obvious that the area needed an economic boost and it was thought that a park such as the one planned would help. “Our area once thrived with business,” said Mack. “But, over the years, many of the businesses closed their doors or moved away. It is no secret that the terrain in our area gives us one of the best riding spots in the country. We figured that this terrain could also be the catalyst we needed to spark our local economy again.”
Once a consensus was built among all the various factions, the Board of Commissioners ordered the County’s Planning Department to explore funding opportunities and to develop a master plan and feasibility study for the project. Once a plan is completed, it will be presented to the Board of Commissioners; and the board will evaluate it. In addition, funding opportunities at the state and federal level will be explored. Getting funding will determine whether or not the project can move forward to completion, explained Mack. “The Commissioners are committed to the project, so long as it does not present any burden to the taxpayer,” he said.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) are providing funding for the development of the Master Plan and Feasibility Study. In addition, the DCNR has already contributed an additional $400,000 to move forward with construction. However, Mack pointed out that sum is nowhere near the amount of money needed to actually complete construction. The Board hopes that once they have a Master Plan it will be easier for them to determine what options are open concerning the funding of construction and start up.
Another concern by some is safety since much of the land was used for mining. Mack pointed out that the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation will perform remediation work to repair any hazards that might still be present due to mining activity.
Local ATV and OHV organizations have been providing input almost since day one of the project. Several members of the Planning Department’s steering committee are “intimately familiar with the ATV/OHV world,” said Mack. “They’ve ridden recreation areas all over the country and have been able to communicate their experiences with the rest of the group.”
In fact, input has come from all groups. “We’ve listened to the recommendations and concerns of local citizens, OHV enthusiasts, business owners, taxpayers, police and EMS services. We are continually evaluating any recommendations brought to our attention. This project is part of a public process where input from every citizen is necessary to make it a success,” said Mack.
Included in the grant submission to DCNR for various phases of construction were:
* A Welcome Center
* Parking Area to Accommodate Trailers
* Extensive System of Organized Trails with Signage
* Primitive and Full Hook Up Camp Sites
* Shower Facilities
* Picnic Pavilions
* Picnic Tables
* Vehicle Washing Center
* Emergency Landing Zones
“When the time comes, we’ll need to hire an army of workers to bring the whole concept of the park to fruition. It will be a monumental task,” said Mack.
If a facility is constructed, the county of Northumberland will oversee it and will hire a staff and manager to operate it on a day-to-day basis.
A fee will be charged to use the park. However, an exact price has not yet been determined. Mack said that the steering committee and Planning Department are currently researching the fee structure of similar parks.
Plans call for the facility to be self-sustaining, and it is expected that it will be making a profit within five years of its opening. The profits will be reinvested back into the site to pay for continual improvements. “It must be sustainable and not a burden on the taxpayers of our region,” concluded Mack.
Although an opening date has not been determined, the facility already has its own website http://www.ohv.norrycopa.net/side_by_side.htm
and Facebook page . https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northumberland-County-OHV-Park/141351402542490