BURNSIDE - A groundbreaking ceremony for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) will be held at the trailhead today, marking the start of work for the first permanent structure on the property.

The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. at the site of the welcome center, which will be built off Route 125 south of Burnside.

Dignitaries expected include Cindy Dunn, deputy secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of Recreation and Conservation; state Sen. John Gordner (R-27), state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107), Northumberland County and Coal Township commissioners and staff from the township, county planning department and conservation district.

The five members of the AOAA Authority board will be present as well, said Jim Backes, chairman.

"It's great news. There's been a lot of hard work to get to this point," he said Thursday.

Construction will begin soon and finish in mid to late September.

The welcome center will include an administrative building with an office, conference room and three maintenance garages. There will be 75 parking places on a paved lot and 180 spaces on a gravel lot, with additional overflow parking. The area will also include an ATV safety course, benches, lights and signs.

Contracts totaling $1,637,281 were awarded by the authority last month to Paul Risk Associates Inc., of Quarryville, at $1,429,000 for general construction; J.B. Electric Corp., of Minersville, at $92,390 for electrical; Bognet Inc., of Hazleton, at $58,205 for plumbing, and Shannon A. Smith Inc, of Myerstown, at $57,685 for mechanical/HVAC.

Funding is coming mostly from two grants totaling $1.9 million that were awarded by DCNR in 2010 and 2011.

Authority members have delayed approval of a public ride, which was expected to take place Saturday. The authority is not yet prepared to host one, Backes said, but other dates are being considered.