By Justin Strawser
The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP — Years of work and patience could pay off Saturday for Northumberland County officials when the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area holds its first public ride and grand opening.
The park, which will cater to off-road motorized vehicles, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, is located along Route 125 on 6,500 acres of forest and abandoned coal lands in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships.
Approximately $3.6 million has been spent so far on the project with money allocated from various state and federal grants.
Like giving birth
Project manager Kathy Jeremiah, who works as the county grants manager in the planning commission, compared the creation of the park to the birth of her child.
“It’s been a five-year pregnancy for me,” she said.
Despite opposition over the years, the park is already helping the local economy, Jeremiah said.
Earthday Campground along Upper Road in Shamokin and Jones Enterprises storage units in Burnside opened recently to accommodate riders, she said.
Plus, many local business such as the Turkey Hill in Shamokin and Brewser’s SportsGrille in Coal Township have seen an increase in business since the park became available for special events last year, Jeremiah said.
This weekend, at least 12 vendors, including One Smart Cookie that has frequently provided food for events in the last year, will be open for hungry riders.
“This is what the commissioners wanted to build and promote,” Jeremiah said. “This is the economic engine for the lower anthracite area.”
She foresees more businesses popping up as the park becomes established.
Jeremiah wants everyone — even those not riding — to come out this weekend to experience what is taking place on the property.
Activities, including bounce houses for children and ATV simulators, will be available for everyone, she said.
Vehicle dealerships will also be present with their products, Jeremiah said.
Most of the heavy lifting in order to have the park ready for this weekend is done; only small housekeeping issues are left, AOAA Authority chairman Jim Backes said.
“I’m feeling good. A lot of hard work happened to get it to this point,” he said.
The first employee was hired last week, he said.
Brian Shurock, a former police chief of Mount Carmel, was hired at $14 an hour for 20 to 30 hours a week as a part-time administrative assistant.
Shurock will help the operations director with analyzing administrative operations, policies and procedures, preparing or implementing recommendations, budgetary and other activities.
Now that phase one is nearly complete, phase two will be opening the west end of the park for walking, hiking, horseback riding, camping and other activities, he said.
Hiring employees will help the authority focus on that second phase, he said.
Guided tours planned
Guided tours will be available for the west side, but nothing further at this point, he said.
Friday will mark the ribbon-cutting during which dignitaries and media are invited to tour the grounds.
Saturday and Sunday will be the first time day, weekend and season passes will be available for the general public.
The park will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Fees are as follows:
- Yearly pass for full-size jeep/truck: $100 for county resident, $140 for noncounty resident.
- Yearly pass for ATV/UTV/motorcycle: $70 for county resident, $100 for noncounty resident.
- Yearly pass for first child: $40 for county resident, $100 for noncounty resident. Each additional child is either $20 for county residents or $25 for noncounty residents.
- Yearly pass for passengers: $25 for county residents, $30 for noncounty residents.
- Daily pass for passengers: $10 for both county and noncounty residents.
- One-day pass for full-size vehicles: $20 for county residents, $25 for noncounty residents.
- One-day pass for ATV/UTV/motorcycle: $15 for county residents, $20 for noncounty residents.
- One-day pass for children: $10 for both county and noncounty residents.
- Two-day pass for full-size vehicles: $30 for county residents, $40 for noncounty residents.
- Two-day pass for ATV/UTV/motorcycle: $23 for county residents, $30 for noncounty residents.
- Two-day pass for children: $15 for both county and noncounty residents.