BURNSIDE — In spite of a soggy weather pattern last summer that carried into spring, the forecast at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) continues to shine “bright.”
Dave Porzi, director of operations of the off-road trail system on 7,500 acres of county-controlled property, said patron attendance this year has exceeded last season’s numbers. User demand, he added, has led to the five-man authority to expand the operating schedule of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from five to seven days a week.
Porzi said the added hours began in mid-May and will continue until at least Labor Day. Although attendance was relatively light on Tuesday, he noted that about 40 patrons had visited the park on the weekday after the expansion was announced.
“Tuesdays we have been seeing a decent flow … but we are still in that graduation, prom and end-of-school season,” he said of factors that may limit attendance. “What we have been seeing is (people) showing up on a Wednesday, and riding Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
Porzi said non-motorized users are not permitted to walk on motorized trails when the park is open, but are welcome to enjoy at any time a 3.1-mile walking trail that starts near the main office. Four exercise areas that hold 18 exercise fitness stations were recently installed as an added feature.
Off-road vehicles will not be required to watch the Shamokin fireworks from the AOAA. On July 6, people may access the main entrance road of the park to gain access to an upper parking lot, which offers a view of the Glen Burn Bank, where the display is launched at dusk.
“You don’t get the big bang, but you do get a spectacular view,” Porzi said of watching the show from about 2 miles away.
Staff members will also be assisting organizers Citizens for a Better Community and Citizens Fireworks Inc. to keep people off the Glen Burn mountain, per an agreement with landowner Edward Helfrick Jr.
Park officials have started preparations for the annual Flight the Blight ride, which Porzi described as one the bigger events at the park. It benefits the Northumberland County Housing Authority, which uses the proceeds to clean up, rehabilitate and eliminate blighted properties throughout the county.
Pre-registered riders for the September event will travel an approximate 25-mile loop and be allowed to access the Zerbe Rod and Gun Club, via designated Trevorton streets, for a chicken BBQ.
“It’s also a great fundraiser for the gun club,” Porzi noted. “We really appreciate the cooperation from the Zerbe Township supervisors with helping us to do this for the fourth year in a row.”
An event page will be created on the park’s website in the near future, Porzi added.
AOAA officials are also looking at the fall for the start of a 88-acre mine reclamation project that will eliminate highwalls and a water impoundment, locally known as “The Caves,” in Coal and Zerbe townships.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, is expected this week to award a bid for the project, which park officials anticipate will transform dangerous, abandon mine lands into a world-class attraction.
According to DEP, principal items of work to be completed within 30 months include grading 2.5 million cubic yards of earth; constructing 172,100 square-foot of extreme off-road trails, 65,500 square-foot of jeep/atv trails; 11,000 square-yards of improved access road and 5,000 square-yards of parking lot; and revegetating 84.2 acres.
“The rock obstacles are going to be more in the lines of black to red difficulty,” Porzi explained. “Jeeps will be crawling over rocks the size of refrigerators and Volkswagens.”
A separate land rehabilitation project that involved planting 1,900 trees was completed in May. Northumberland County Conservation District and the AOAA split the cost of stakes and protective tubes for the trees, which were donated through PPL Electric Utilities’ Community Roots program. Students from Shamokin Area High School got their hands dirty, as did park riders, who, with the assistance of Off-Road Consulting, planted the majority of the trees in areas lacking vegetation on the Western Reserve.
“We are very blessed and thankful that the users have taken ownership of this (AOAA) project and they’re the reason why we come to work every day,” Porzi said with enthusiasm. “We are trying to build a world-class facility for families to come and have fun with motorized recreation. There are lot of bright days ahead. And, as we always say, ‘Another great day at the AOAA.’”