April 26, 2019


AOAA event through downtown Shamokin delights riders, stirs business

SHAMOKIN — More than 100 ATV riders participated in the third “Taking It to the Streets” event Saturday sponsored by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) that gave them an opportunity to cruise city streets and patronize local restaurants and taverns.

“This is fantastic,” commented longtime ATV enthusiast Brian Huntzinger, 48, of Llewellyn. “The AOAA is a great place to ride and having an event like this helps the community out.”

Huntzinger, who has been riding off-road vehicles for about 30 years, said he and his family have attended multiple AOAA events.

“We will be back for the rides in October and November, weather permitting,” he said.

His 19-year-old daughter, Erica Huntzinger, also was delighted for the opportunity to visit the downtown district on a beautiful day.

“I love it here,” she said. “An event like this gives us family time together and you couldn’t ask for a better day or event.”

Christopher Samler, 60, of Drums, added, “The AOAA is one of the better ATV facilities and has challenging trails. I recommend it to anyone.”

Samler also is a veteran ATV rider.

His wife, Judy, 53, stated, “This is my third time here and we love it. I wish other communities would hold events like this.”

The Huntzingers and Samlers dined at Original Italian Pizza (OIP) on East Independence Street before heading back to the AOAA trails off Route 125 in Burnside.

Other businesses patronized by AOAA riders included the the Dining Room, Ale House Bar & Grill and Turkey Hill Minit Market on Lincoln Street.

Forrest Curran, co-owner of the Ale House Bar & Grill on East Independence Street and a strong supporter of the AOAA, said, “It was a great day for Shamokin. We had a good business with the ATV riders in town. It was great to see out-of-towners bringing business into the community. We want every business in town to be profitable.”

Dave Porzi, director of operations for the AOAA, said approximately 525 people visited the AOAA trailhead Saturday, with approximately 125 taking part in the “Taking It to the Streets” ride into Shamokin.

When asked how the ride was going in the morning, Porzi said, “So far, everything is working out well. The portal trail that we were allowed to open up behind the housing authority property on Raspberry Hill worked out well. It’s a little narrow in spots, but the riders have been able to navigate around each other fine. The riders are keeping the noise down. Everything seems to be working out well. It’s been a win-win today.”

Porzi said he expected Saturday’s turnout of riders to be lower than past rides due to other activities going on including a 7-miler and the Bloomsburg Fair. He anticipates having better turnouts during rides in October and November.

“There’s been very little traffic coming to town today compared to the rides we’ve had in the past,” he said. “We want the public to know that our events involving riders coming into Shamokin at different times throughout the day won’t have much of an impact on traffic. There definitely was less congestion in town today than the first two rides we had.”

When asked about the noise caused by off-road vehicles, Porzi said, “The noise level is being kept under 90 decibels, which is what I expected. The loudest off-road vehicles are the two-stroke dirt bikes. We are seeing more 4x4 side-by-sides with families. I believe more riders realize that this is a privilege rather than a right. They understand what we’re trying to do with the AOAA and events like this. They want to see this as a full-time thing in the future.”

Shamokin Mayor John Brown Brown said it was unfortunate that more businesses weren’t included on the ride route due to PennDOT restricting the use of Market Street (State Route 125).

“We had a smaller crowd than the last two rides, but that made it more manageable in terms of directing traffic,” he said. “We had no incidents relating to traffic control.”

The mayor pointed out that orange arrows posted on poles directed off-road vehicle riders where to go once they gained access to city streets after traveling down from the AOAA trailhead, through the woods behind Raspberry Hill and onto Terrace Avenue.

He said ATVs were allowed to ride on Lincoln, Liberty, Independence, Commerce, Water and Liberty streets.

Members of Shamokin Fire Police led by 80-year-old Captain Joe Sanzotto, who was stationed along Terrace Avenue, directed traffic throughout the day.

Although AOAA officials, ATVs riders and some business owners were pleased to experience another successful “Taking It to the Streets” ride, the event did have its detractors.

Local environmentalist Susan Zaner, of Gold Street, who was among multiple people to complain at a recent city council meeting about ATVs coming into town, parked her car across Terrace Avenue near a bridge crossing Shamokin Creek so riders couldn’t access Spurzheim and Lincoln streets.

Sanzotto said he contacted Shamokin police about the incident, which prompted Zaner to move her car out of the way.

Several residents of the 400 block of North Washington Street, which is located just off Spurzheim Street across the creek from Rescue Fire Company, mildly complained about the noise from the ATVs.

One resident questioned how the riders were allowed to travel along a bridge on Spurzheim Street, claiming it is owned by the state, which previously denied riders access to Market Street because it is a state highway.

When asked about the ownership of the bridge, the mayor said it is owned by Northumberland County.

Managing editor Tim Zyla contributed to this report.



AOAA is chosen as one of seven DEP projects for mine reclamation


AOAA is chosen as one of seven DEP projects for mine reclamation

An abandoned mine at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area known to the Coal Region locals as "the caves" is one of seven projects selected by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for clean up of a hazardous water-filled pit and spoil piles.

The state agency announced on Wednesday the approval of $25 million in funding for seven environmental cleanup and revitalization projects at abandoned mine land (AML) locations across Pennsylvania. The  project on 88 acres in the Bear Valley Southwest portion of the western reserve of the AOAA will expand the trails to include approximately 6,600 feet of extreme rock crawling trails, re-establish and/or construct approximately 4,370 feet of off-road/ATV/dirt bike trails, and create a new recreational attraction for public use that will boost the local economy.

"We're really excited about this," said operations manager Dave Porzi. "It will get rid of a water hazard and it's economic development for the area. It will be a beautiful project when it's done. Having this is another step forward for the AOAA."

The AOAA, which caters to off-road motorized vehicles, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, is located along Route 125 on 6,500 acres of forest and reclaimed coal land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The park is owned by Northumberland County and managed by the AOAA Authority. More than 26,000 passes were sold last year compared to 19,000 in 2017, and the park generated $535,000 in total business in 2018 compared to $525,000 in 2017.

The location of the project is near the Whaleback, a seven-acre geological formation on property adjacent to the AOAA Western Reserve, said Porzi.

The project is expected to take two years, but does not yet have a price tag. The site survey and pre-bid meetings will occur at the end of May, said Porzi.

"This will hopefully rival the Rubicon Trail on the West Coast and draw people to the East Coast," he said, referring to a 22-mile-long route in the Sierra Nevada about 80 miles east of Sacramento.

Local officials welcomed the news on Wednesday.

"It's another attraction for the adventure area. It will continue to help us draw visitors from all over the East Coast," said AOAA Authority Chair Jim Backes.

"The caves have been around for a long time," said Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano. "It will beautify that section that used to be a stripping pit. It's going to make it better for the AOAA."

“This was greatly anticipated for Northumberland County, greatly needed,” said Northumberland County Commissioner Kymberley Best. “I am very appreciative to the Governor Wolf and his administration."

“The approved abandoned mine cleanup projects will help eliminate public health and safety hazards and improve stream, groundwater, and land quality,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a prepared statement. “The funding is an important investment in the community from environmental, recreational, and economic development standpoints.”

The local community and economic development projects include three surface mine reclamation projects, one acid mine drainage treatment or remediation project, three coal refuse pile/culm bank remediation projects, and a historic mining preservation project to move a historic mine fan and other artifacts to a mine museum.

Project funding comes from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) 2018 AML Pilot Program, which specifically targets abandoned mine cleanup projects that are linked to local community and economic development goals. This is the third year that Pennsylvania has received funding from the AML Pilot Program.

The cleanup of abandoned mines is a priority of the Wolf Administration and has been included in the Restore Pennsylvania initiative, a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth's vital infrastructure needs. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that would help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.



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