BURNSIDE - The authority for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area must replace piping for its underground well after acidic water destroyed the six-month old system.

The development won't affect opening day at the AOAA, according to authority chairman Jim Backes. If the well to the welcome center isn't fixed ahead of the May 17 opening, a water buffalo will be brought on site.

The pH level of the water was too low, Backes said. That causes the metals in the water to become acidic and can corrode or dissolve metals, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A well was dug on site in October. After the damage was recently discovered, the water pump was pulled as was the existing piping. The authority will look into other materials, likely plastic piping, for its replacement.

Opening weekend is May 17-18, allowing for the first time public access for motorized vehicles only. The park will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Days and hours of operation are expected to expand this summer.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. May 16. Elected officials from local municipalities and the state Legislature will be on hand, as will Ellen Ferretti, secretary of the state Department of Community and Natural Resources. Vendors are also expected, and anyone from the public is welcome to visit the park to see what is offered on opening weekend even if they have no intention to ride an off-road vehicle on the park's trails.

Authority members are working to settle an agreement with Blaschak Coal Corp. to allow unrestricted access to enter the west side of the AOAA. Access had previously been granted for the group rides and events held over the last year, but an agreement for public access is not yet in place.

Authority member Barry Yorwarth said security on the west side must be addressed in the area of "the flats" where illegal camping has been occurring.

Dialogue continues, too, albeit at a slower pace, Backes said, with Reading Anthracite on access and security issues. The coal company sells its own permits for access to its ample land that surrounds portions of the AOAA. There are concerns from both sides about riders accessing the respective lands without proper permissions.

A reclamation project by Bureau of Anthracite Mine Reclamation is nearly complete, Yorwarth said. Substantial growth of plant life must occur, about 70 percent, before a bond on the project area is released and it can be utilized.

The authority continues the hiring process for an operations manager and maintenance employee. While those positions remain vacant, an administrative assistant was hired. Brian Shurock, former police chief in Mount Carmel, was hired for the part-time position. He will be paid an hourly wage of $14 and will work between 20 and 30 hours weekly.

A phone line has been installed for the welcome center: 570-648-2626.

There are no events planned this weekend at the AOAA. Hunters are encouraged to visit the AOAA to hunt spring gobbler. While the bearded bird is in season through May 31, hunting at the AOAA is permitted for this weekend only. All hunters must "walk in." They are not permitted to drive the woods. The daily limit is one. A special license can raise the limit to two. The legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.