Officials: AOAA headed for record high year

Trails make their way through the forest at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area in Shamokin.

TREVORTON — Officials from the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area and Northumberland County are exploring the possibility of timbering trees on 493 acres of county-owned land in Zerbe Township.

AOAA Authority Chairman Jim Backes said certified forester Nathan Kort, owner of Kort Forestry, of Kulpmont, is currently working on a proposal for AOAA to submit to the authority board members and county commissioners for approval. The proposal involves two 60-acres areas of land overseeing Trevorton Road in Zerbe Township above Sunoco and Dollar General.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Backes, noting that Kort must figure out water control, log removal and other factors in the report. “This is all to determine whether that’s feasible or not. It’s very possible when you look at it, it’s not a feasible project, and then nothing happens.”

The AOAA — which caters to off-road motorized vehicles, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts — is located along Route 125 on more than 8,000 acres of forest and reclaimed coal land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The land is mostly owned by Northumberland County with some leased from private landowners and managed by the AOAA Authority.

If the proposal is accepted at a public meeting, bids would then be sought for a logging company. Once bids are in, the AOAA board and county commissioners would have to vote on accepting and awarding a bid for the timbering, said Backes.

The county gave the AOAA permission 18 months ago to manage any timbering projects on AOAA land. This would be the first project if approved, that AOAA would manage, said Backes.

The AOAA would not benefit financially from the timbering. Any proceeds would come back to the county, Zerbe Township and Line Mountain School District, similar to how coal royalty is divided among the governing bodies, he said.

Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano said he has been made aware of opposition from residents of the project who are concerned that the timbering would increase water runoff and flooding on certain properties that already are experiencing problems. Backes and Schiccatano said select cuts, which is when certain trees are picked out and stumps are left, are often beneficial for forest management, but such a project would not move forward if the residents are negatively affected.

“If the people are not satisfied, the county will not approve the project,” said Schiccatano. “We will not do anything to make the problem worse than it is now.”

Patty Zablosky, a member of the Citizens United To Stop The Timbering Project in Zerbe Township, said such a statement should be provided to the citizens in writing.

“Any partnerships should be brought forth to the citizens,” she said. “They are accountable to the taxpayers. Anything that directly affects us, we need to provide input.”

Zablosky said concerned citizens are invited to meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Zerbe Township Recreation Complex. The group will discuss what questions to ask at public meetings and how to hold officials accountable.

Public meetings are held for the AOAA Authority at 6:30 p.m. every third Monday at the AOAA Trailhead, 4100 State Route 125, Coal Township; for the county commissioners at 1 p.m. every first Tuesday at the administration center, 399 Stadium Drive, Sunbury; and for the Zerbe Township board of supervisors at 6 p.m. every second Monday at the township municipal building, 800 Mahanoy Street, Trevorton.

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