Northumberland County will receive $1.5 million in state money for further development of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area on 6,500 acres of land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships.

The amount is the largest sum out of $31.5 million for 218 conservation and recreation projects designed to protect natural resources and revitalize communities across the state, which was announced by Gov. Tom Corbett in Montgomery County Wednesday.

The announcement was welcome news among local legislators.

"The continuing work at the Anthracite Outdoor Recreation Area is not only important for Northumberland County in terms of recreation, but also in terms of economic development," said Sen. John Gordner (R-27). "Numerous national groups have expressed interest in holding events at the site once it is more fully developed."

State Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) said he has been working with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to bring the project funding to fruition, formerly as a Northumberland County commissioner and currently as a state representatives.

"I am pleased with the substantial state commitment to further development of the Anthracite Outdoor Recreation Area," said Masser.

Potential

Gordner said the large grant is indicative of DCNR's strong support for the project.

"Secretary (Richard) Allan and his staff are fully committed to this project," he said. "They're very excited about it."

Gordner said DCNR sees "incredible potential" with the AOAA, and he continues to advocate for it as well.

The grant allocates the money to be used for "construction of off-highway vehicle facilities, 200 miles of trails, trailhead amenities, parking, utilities, ADA access, landscaping and project sign, according to the announcement.

The county commissioners adopted a resolution earlier this month approving the master site development plan for the AOAA. The plan, which is complete and in accordance with the DCNR grant agreement, was pending final review and approval from DCNR and the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

While the park construction hasn't started yet, Jeep Jamboree USA has already added an event to its 2012 schedule in August.

Plans call for AOAA to be used for motorized and non-motorized recreation, including all-terrain and off-road vehicles, cycling, hiking and horseback riding.

Kathy Jeremiah, project coordinator and county grants manager for the county Planning Department, was unable to be reached Wednesday evening.

Money for playground

Additionally, Kulpmont received a $40,000 grant for further development of the playground at the Terri Meriello Stadium, and the department has committed $99,000 for the continued work in the Roaring Creek Tract of the Weiser State Forest, including comfort stations, ADA access and landscaping.

Kulpmont is in need of a safe playground area for the community's children, and the legislators were pleased to advocate for this project, Gordner said said.

Since the state acquired the land for the Roaring Creek Tract of the Weiser State Forest several years ago, DCNR has been undertaking a yearly effort to improve recreational opportunities in the forest, including trail development. This year's project will involve new comfort stations, ADA access and improved signage and landscaping.

In the media release from the state, Corbett said, "The health and vitality of our communities is reflected in the quality of their parks and trails, access to rivers, open spaces and opportunities to be active outdoors. Through these grants, we're able to fund hundreds of projects to help conserve and enhance our natural assets."

Funding is provided through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program of DCNR, which provides grants through previous bond issues and through portions of recreational vehicle registration fees.