AOAA set to build office space, garage
SHAMOKIN - The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) Authority announced Tuesday night plans are in place to construct a permanent building this year at the park's trailhead.
AOAA Authority chairman James Backes presented the blueprints for the Trailhead Overall Plan at the authority meeting in the Northumberland County Career and Arts Center.
The documents, created by Pennoni Associates, of Mechanicsburg, must be approved by Northumberland County Planning Commission, Northumberland County Conservation District, Coal Township Planning Department, PennDOT and Verizon Wireless.
The authority, which had its first meeting Jan. 29, was formed to oversee the operation and maintenance of the AOAA, which is being developed on 6,500 acres on county-owned forest and coal lands in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships.
The main access road, at Route 125 south of Burnside, will be up to federal standards and lead to an administrative building, which will have an office, conference room and three maintenance garages, Backes explained.
There will be 75 parking places on a paved lot and there will be 180 spaces on a gravel lot, with additional overflow parking, he said.
Additional details include an area for an ATV safety course, benches, lights and signs, authority member Pat Mack said.
The money to fund the designs and eventual construction is coming from a $1.5 million grant that was awarded in 2011 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Mack said very little of the money was used for the creation of the master plan.
Once the plans are approved by the agencies, the authority can advertise the construction plans and eventually contract a company. The authority members are hopeful they can have the construction completed before 2013 ends.
Jaci Harner, watershed specialist with the Northumberland County Conservation District, also presented information to the authority that would allow them to apply for a maximum amount of $300,000 to improve the Carbon Run watershed.
The funding source comes from Act 13 of 2012: Marcellus Legacy Fund, which is money taxed from the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry and organized by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
Applications to apply for the grant money are due by July 1, and will recipients will be awarded Nov. 13.
It is recommended that access to the Carbon Run Shamokin Creek Restoration Association (SCRA) Site 42 should be prohibited and protected by structures, such as fences or large boulders, to secure against future damage.
It was also recommended that three crossings be abandoned and secured, or Best Management Practices (BMPs) be employed to prevent erosion and sedimentation.
The last recommendation was for a fourth crossing in which a construction would divert storm water into a designed sedimentation pond.
Coal Township resident Bill Knapick, who has been a long-time critic of the park, asked members if the county taxpayers would be reimbursed for trees cut by North Jersey Shore Jeep Club to create new trails in December 2011, which he says is a violation of the AOAA master site plan and state game commission regulations.
"In short, no," authority member Barry Yorwarth said.
Yorwarth repeated what he has previously said when Knapick raised the issue in several county commissioner meetings: the issue has been addressed, and the county, authority, DCNR and game commissioner are satisfied with the outcome and are moving on.
After Knapick called the situation a "cover up," Yorwarth told him he should file the charges he's been threatening to file instead of coming to the meetings to "bicker."
Backes assured Knapick any new trails in the park would be approved through the proper channels.
"We'll do our homework and we'll do it right," he said.
Joe Bressi, of East Cameron Township, defended the AOAA after Knapick sat down, saying the park is "the best thing since they discovered coal here two centuries ago."
"We have to get behind this and support this authority 100 percent," he said.
Bressi is developing a camping ground for park users on 117 acres of land at 140 Blacks Lane, between Trevorton and Gowen City.
His first phase is to develop 75 campsites on 26 of those acres, he said.
"In two years, I should have a full-blown campsite," he said.