Northumberland County officials are still quietly working on plans to reinvent 6,000 acres of coal wasteland as the Anthracite Adventure Outdoor Area.
The county is proposing to establish the adventure area on the site and open the property up to the public for recreational vehicles, hiking, camping, horseback riding and other outdoor uses. Northumberland County aims to begin developing a paved road and welcoming facility in May.
The purpose of the anthracite adventure movement is to establish governing rules for an area that is already popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
Once that is complete, the county will maintain ownership of the land but the area will be operated by a special anthracite adventure area board governed by appointees selected by the county commissioners.
Even before the county has begun to implement its ambitious $1.5 million master plan, the adventure area is attracting visitors from across the country. Last weekend, the first-ever Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree was held at the site, attracting more than 200 riders with vehicles reinforced to handle the rigors off extreme off-roading
County planning director Pat Mack has characterized the area as lawless, a description that nettled Zerbe Township Police Chief Robert John, whose jurisdiction covers a portion of the adventure area.
John said in a recent letter to the editor that one of the hurdles facing an effort to manage the adventure area will be the built-in inertia against change.
Many of the enthusiasts who frequent the area have become comfortable with the lack of oversight, even if it results in an occasional fistfight or other risky behavior.
County officials can make their case by demonstrating to local off-roading enthusiasts how the reinvented adventure area will improve their experience. The master plan indicates that state funds will be used to add access roads and improve or add 242 miles of trails for motorized vehicles; add 15 miles of trails for horse-riding and more than 33 miles for bike riders and hikers.
If county leaders can successfully get the community buy-in to support the adventure area, it will create an asset for the community as both a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and for businesses that hope to profit by serving visitors.