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Ryan Bonney, one of the 10 co-owners of Whispering Oaks Vineyard, checks out this year’s crop of grapes.

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Shamokin woman’s Terrace Avenue trek causes traffic problems

SHAMOKIN — A Shamokin woman that lives near the Terrace Avenue trail that was used Saturday by ATVs to travel from the AOAA to the city spent some of her afternoon attempting to navigate the path filled with off-road vehicles.

Susan Zaner, who lives on Gold Street above the trail and has spoken out in opposition of the AOAA in the past, said she has walked the trail for many years.

Her trek caused several backups, mainly due to the small width of the trail and, at times, there being an inability to get off the path far enough for the vehicles to pass.

“I’m talking a walk on Terrace Avenue like I do a number of times,” she said. “My doctor wants me to walk and this is a nice shady, flat spot to walk in and I’m having trouble getting through because of the ATVs.”

Zaner said an AOAA official requested that she utilize something to make her more visible to riders in hopes of minimizing the risk of a pedestrian accident taking place. Zaner was wearing dark clothing. She responded by walking along the trail with a stick that had a white plastic bag attached to the end of it.

“I didn’t know there was a dress code today,” she said. “I have to get out of the road for the ATVs. The ATVs don’t stop for me. There are several places along Terrace Avenue that are very tight and it’s a little dangerous for who is going to move first.”

Zaner also expressed displeasure about the amount of noise coming from the trail near her home.

“There’s a lot of noise on Gold Street. ... There is some dust in certain sections of the road. I just want them to know I’m here.”

She said she feels city taxpayers should have a right to the path more so than ATV riders from out of the area.

“I think that the ATV (drivers) are creating more disruption in this city,” she said. “When they give priority to the ATVs over the citizens of the City of Shamokin — that is wrong.”

Within a few hundred feet of Zaner were a group of three men sitting along side of the trail talking and watching the off-road vehicles pass. None had any complaints about the vehicles using the trail.

AOAA Director of Operations Dave Porzi declined to comment on Zaner’s complaints, but said she made the only complaint he received about the ride by approximately noon Saturday.

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Class of ’69 donates over $12,000 to Lourdes

COAL TOWNSHIP — Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School Class of 1969 presented a check to the Catholic school for $12,125 Saturday during a 50th reunion gathering at the school. The donation is one of the largest from a class in at least a decade, according to Director of Development Jacqueline Kerris.

Class of ’69 member Michael Suchanick said the class donated the money not only to say thank you to the school, but in hopes of convincing other classes to do the same.

“Lourdes prepared Mike Suchanick for life,” he said when asked of the impact the school had on him. “In my career, in being structured, in culture and, yes, even discipline.”

Class member Rick Martini said the group of former students had hopes of getting 100% participation instead of putting an emphasis on the amount donated by each person.

“We had a plan and that’s why we were successful,” he said. “We beat our goal.”

Lourdes Regional High School Principal Sister Mary Anne Bednar said the school has preliminary plans to use the money to help with tuition assistance and upgrading the technology infrastructure.

“It means a lot that they came back and celebrated the reunion with the class — it was a great showing today,” she said. “Lourdes is an oasis for kids in the area. We don’t have funding like public schools do and we rely on tuition and gifts like this one.”

Bednar shared Suchanick’s hopes of creating a precedent for other classes to follow.

Following the gathering in the afternoon at Lourdes, most members planned to head to the joint Shamokin-Lourdes Regional 50th reunion that was scheduled later in the day.

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Nice weather aides cemetery cleanup day

SHAMOKIN — A group of around 30 community members volunteered during Saturday’s cleanup of the Shamokin Cemetery, which was graced with beautiful weather.

While the organizers were aware that the entire 20-acre property was not going to be mowed and cleaned in a single day, all expressed gratitude to the community members for helping and said the work completed makes a noticeable difference.

Jennifer Seidel, a candidate for city council and newly-named treasurer of the board, said the response from those concerned about the condition of the property was overwhelming.

“This is the Shamokin I remember,” she said while looking at those working. “This is what Shamokin is to me.”

Seidel said there was no focus on a single part of the property and volunteers were left to work on any areas they wished.

A group of six people volunteered from Great Dane in Elysburg and employee Brian Remley said making the cemetery more presentable is a cause that is near and dear to his heart.

“There’s veterans up here,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been like this. We’re happy to be here doing our part as Great Dane volunteers.”

Cemetery secretary Tracy Donnelly, who originally presented the idea to have Saturday’s community day, said she was happy with the turnout and was hoping to have more events in the future.

Leo Mirolli, president of the Mother Cabrini Baseball organization, traveled to the cemetery to help with approximately seven other volunteers from the group.

Cemetery president William Milbrand said he was pleased to see the community helping, but is still fighting to secure a full-time employee for nine months of the year, which he considers the only permanent solution to the lack of maintenance being performed at the cemetery.

The cemetery board recently reorganized and held a meeting after receiving public outcry about the condition of the property. Saturday’s cleanup was the result of that meeting, and the board is now focusing its efforts on securing a stream of revenue that could potentially support a full-time employee.

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Walking tour takes in Shamokin’s rich history

SHAMOKIN — An important part of Shamokin’s rich history came alive Saturday with a walking tour featuring local sites involving the work of renowned inventor Thomas Edison and items from a time capsule from Kulp Memorial Church displayed at the Greater Shamokin Heritage Museum.

At 6:30 p.m., tour guide Alex Skitolsky, a local artist interested in preserving Shamokin’s heritage, led approximately 25 people on the Edison Illuminating Walking Tour.

The free 75-minute tour retraced the historic steps the inventor took on Sept. 21, 1883. On that notable date in history, Edison led a curious crowd of townspeople through Shamokin to unveil his new electric lighting system.

The tour included stops at the former locations of Edison’s electric illuminating company behind the Jones Hardware building, the McConnell Mansion at Sunbury and Orange streets (current Harold Thomas Highrise), Stirling Colliery Office on the northeast corner of Sunbury and Washington streets, the Douty Building at Sunbury and Rock streets, both of Myron Thomas’ Studios at Sunbury and Shamokin streets, and East Independence Street, John Mullen Iron Works in a lot between Shamokin and Franklin streets and the former St. Edward’s Church (currently Mother Cabrini Church) in the 200 block of North Shamokin Street.

Skitolsky provided a wealth of interesting facts and tidbits about Edison’s life, inventions and each location on the tour and the vital roles played in Edison’s career by multiple prominent Shamokin citizens.

He said the inventor of the electric light blub established his first illuminating company in Shamokin.

The tour guide said Edison chose Shamokin to build the company because of the cheap availability of anthracite coal.

Skitolsky said Edison’s goal was to invent an efficient and affordable means of electricity.

He said when Edison came to Shamokin at the age of 35, he had a lot of doubters regarding his theories on electricity.

Skitolsky pointed out that Edison, who was deaf when he came to Shamokin, believed it was important to initially provide electric light to a residence, business and place of worship.

The tour guide said the former St. Edward’s Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1971, was not the first church in the world with electric lighting. But it was the first church to be illuminated by Edison’s three-wire incandescent system.

He said a church in New Jersey and a church in London had electric lighting before St. Edward’s.

“I really enjoyed the tour and learned a lot,” commented Justin Skavery, of Mount Carmel, who had a personal and professional interest in the walk.

Skavery, who serves as grants manager for the Northumberland County Planning and Economic Development Department, earned a master’s degree in history from Shippensburg University and considers himself a history buff.

He’s assisting communities in restoring and preserving historical sites.

Jen McLaughlin added, “It’s very interesting. I learned a lot today about the history of Shamokin.”

State Rep. Kurt Masser stated, “I received a lot of great information about Shamokin from this tour and I believe historical tours like this can become part of an economic revival for the city.”

“It’s amazing to learn about the influence Thomas Edison and other citizens had on the history of this town,” commented Forrest Curran. “Shamokin needs more historic tours.”

The walking tour was sponsored by Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization (SABER), Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities and Greater Shamokin Heritage Museum.

Earlier in the day, Valentine Mountjoy, volunteer curator at the Greater Shamokin Heritage Museum on the second floor of the American Legion building, presented a historical display of Monroe H. Kulp, who also played a prominent role in Shamokin and American history and was the founder of Kulpmont.

The display included contents of a time capsule from the Kulp Memorial Church on Chestnut Street in Kulpmont that were removed from the building’s cornerstone.

The contents included coins from 1899, 1903 and 1910, a Bible and prayer book from 1909 and several issues of Shamokin papers from 1911 and 1912, specifically the Dispatch, Herald and Daily News.

A small group of people viewed the display throughout the day.

“Our goal is to preserve and celebrate the history of the Greater Shamokin Area, sharing its stories and our heritage with the surrounding communities and beyond,” said Mountjoy, who took on the role of volunteer curator in March.

Mountjoy indicated that although the museum does not yet have an established schedule, visitors can obtain information through the official website www.shamokinheritagemuseum.com and Facebook page at Facebook.com/GreaterShamokinHeritageMuseum.

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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.