December 23, 2016

AOAA ups ante on donations

AOAA ups ante on donations

Published: 12/20/2016 6:00 AM
ARTICLE TOOLS

By Sarah DeSantis

THE NEWS-ITEM

sarah_d@newsitem.com

BURNSIDE — The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) Authority bumped its donation totals this year after one member voiced support for the City of Shamokin.

The Authority voted unanimously to give donations of $500 apiece to the City of Shamokin and East CameronWest Cameron and Mount Carmel townships after doubling the amount in its original motion.

The AOAA also approved of $5,000 to Zerbe Township and $10,000 to Coal Township, which also increased from last year’s contributions of $4,000 and $6,500, respectively.

“These donations are a strong show of support of what the AOAA can do to the surrounding community,” said Authority Chairman Jim Backes.

Authority member Pat Mack proposed doubling the four donations while noting that although those municipalities are not the most connected to the park, the goal of economic development was for the surrounding region.

“They need the money as much as everybody,” Mack said of Shamokin and East Cameron, West Cameron and Mount Carmel townships.

“I agree with Pat on this,” said Operations Director David Porzi. He added that he already has meetings scheduled with Shamokin officials to discuss potential joint economic development projects for the coming year. “I feel pretty strongly that bumping to $500 would be a good thing to do.”

The Authority had local residents on its mind throughout Monday’s meeting. During a discussion for the pass rate sheet for 2017, members debated the value of keeping rates the same for in-county residents.

Ultimately, the Authority elected to raise in-county rates for annual passes by $10. Out-of-county annual passes were raised $20 for a full-size vehicle and $25 for ATV/UTV and motorcycles.

Mack was the sole dissent in the vote to raise the in-county rates.

“I want to keep the locals here,” he said. “They’re paying dividends downtown.”

Porzi said by raising the in-county rates, the AOAA will generate about $1,000 in additional revenue. He said while debating the change, he took into consideration the possibility of extending hours at the park to include after 5 p.m. weekdays. He thought this would greatly benefit locals, who could work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, then ride at the park for a few hours in the evening.

“We might be attracting more people to buy a pass,” he said.

Porzi said the majority of users at the park are out-of-county, and the average annual passholder comes three times per year — though many visit far more frequently.

Backes pointed out that the AOAA is still one of the few ATV parks he knows about that offers daily rates.

“We have a lot of daily users who come 10 times,” he said.

Locals may also see the added benefit of non-motorized recreation near the new Northumberland County Prison. Porzi and Authority member Barry Yorwarth visited a more than 300 acre piece of land that the Northumberland County Commissioners purchased earlier this year. The county intends to adapt buildings formerly used by Northwestern Academy as the site of its new prison and other county offices, and asked the AOAA to consider managing the forested area.

“In my opinion, it is the perfect setting for a non-motorized area,” said Porzi.

Though non-motorized recreation, like hiking, biking and horseback riding, has been on the AOAA’s to-do list since before its inception, the authority has struggled with finding the ideal location for a non-motorized trailhead and determining how to safely permit the two types of activities to mix. Porzi said the land near the new prison has excellent terrain, has a great site for a non-motorized trailhead, and, perhaps most importantly, is not covered by garbage from decades of illegal dumping.

“It’s very clean,” said Porzi. “It’s not going to take a lot of work.”

The authority made no decisions on accepting responsibility of the land, or its future use at Monday’s meeting.

In other news:

• The Authority entered into an agreement to have a second appraisal done on the Pedrick property for $1,200.

The AOAA is purchasing the Pedrick property using grant funding, and a stipulation of the grant is to have to appraisals done.

• The AOAA will have its 2016 Annual Report of Municipal Authorities for the Department of Community and Economic Development prepared by Klacik and Associates for an estimated cost between $2,000 and $2,500.

• The Authority gave Porzi permission to purchase a full-size 4x4 vehicle, such as a Jeep, using incoming grant money at a cost not to exceed $6,000.

Porzi told the authority the vehicle was needed to escort people around the property.

“Not everybody wants to get out on a side-by-side and get dirty,” he said.

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