AOAA granted $300k for road
SUNBURY - Northumberland County has received $300,000 in federal money for the proposed Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
The federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) recently announced its approval of the funding, which is essentially a grant that does not need repaid.
The money, secured with the help of SEDA-COG, will be used to construct a 1,280-foot paved road from Route 125 south of Burnside to AOAA's welcome center and educational facility on the east side of the highway.
"It's good news," county planning director Pat Mack said Thursday. "We're pulling funds together to make this a successful park. With this grant, we received all the funds we asked for."
Mack said each time the project receives funding, it can use that money as leverage in future funding applications, which can involve federal, state, private or foundation sources.
"Now that we have this we'll immediately go to work" to seek more economic development money, he said.
Plans call for the AOAA to be developed on 6,596 acres of county-owned property that encompass portions of Mount Carmel, Coal, Zerbe, West Cameron and East Cameron townships. It will be used for motorized and non-motorized recreation, including all-terrain and off-road vehicles, cycling, hiking and horseback riding. Hunting is also planned on a small portion of the land year-round, and on the entire property from the Saturday before Thanksgiving until the first week of January.
A master site plan for AOAA has been developed by the Northumberland County Planning Department and Pashek & Associates, a Pittsburgh-based design firm. The 332-page master plan cost $238,000, which was paid for with a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and a $38,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Details include a business plan for the recreation area addressing the AOAA's organizational structure, financial objectives, rules and regulations, pricing strategies, and issues of safety and security. Details of the plan are available at www.anthraciteadventure.com.
Bob Good, in charge of financial planning with Pashek, predicted that if everything falls into place and proper funding is secured for the project, the AOAA could open by early 2013.
Based on his projection in comparing the AOAA with attendance at similar outdoor adventure areas in West Virginia and Kentucky, Good said the Northumberland County facility could generate $5.2 million in revenue at the end of five years, while creating 184 new jobs. He anticipated the AOAA would generate $238,000 in its first year of operation.
The county, which was seeking $3.5 million in grant funding for the AOAA, received $400,000 late last year from DCNR. The $400,000 came from state snowmobile and ATV funds. In June, the county received a $20,000 Yamaha Off-Highway Vehicle Access Initiative Grant for trail development, mapping and signage in AOAA. The county also was awarded a $10,000 Polaris TRAILS Program grant for trail design and development. Pending funding applications include a $1,500,000 DCNR grant, and $1,300,000 grant for an abandoned mine reclamation project at Boyer's Knob.
Those opposed to the AOAA plan have said the county shouldn't be involved in a business venture and that building the park will end the free use of the land for recreational activities that locals have enjoyed for decades. County officials, who have received support from local and out-of-the-aera off-road organizations and others, said they want to maintain ownership of the property because of the coal that still lies beneath the ground, and that the park will provide a safe, controlled riding area that will provide much-needed tourism and economic development.