SHAMOKIN - Construction of the welcome center at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) is expected to begin shortly after a building permit was received from Coal Township, authority members said Monday.

State grant funding will cover the construction at the AOAA, with the total exceeding $1.6 million.

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.

A payment of $262,327.50 was approved by the authority Monday for the general contractor, Paul Risk Associates Inc., Quarryville.

J.B. Electric Corp., of Minersville, had submitted a low bid of $92,390 to complete electrical work at the building. That bid was rejected by authority members Monday on the advice on a "good faith committee" on the project, Vice Chairman Pat Mack said.

Shannon A. Smith Inc., of Myerstown, submitted the second lowest bid for electrical at $96,953 and will be tasked to do the job.

The Smith firm is already under contract for mechanical/HVAC at the site and received approval for a payment of $742.50.

Barry Yorwarth, authority member, updated other ongoing construction projects. He said a storm water basin along Route 125 in nearly completed. A portion of the main entrance road is graded and that work will continue up to Route 125. Stone has arrived for the main gravel lot and that will be graded this week.

The plumbing contractor, Bognet Inc., of Hazleton, is expected to begin work Wednesday, and another firm will begin drilling for a well this week, Yorwarth said.

Non-motorized use

Frank Kalejta, of Trevorton Road, Coal Township, questioned authority members about non-motorized use of the AOAA.

Specifically, he raised concerns about approaching hunting seasons. Since parking is restricted to the highway at present for the portion of land along Route 125 near Burnside, he suggested some hunters will look for other spots this year.

He suggested the authority look into registering vehicles to park on the property for hunting.

The park is "walk-in only" currently, Mack said, but he said the authority could reconsider on-site parking in the future. He also acknowledged that ongoing construction could hamper hunting at the site.

Kalejta asked when the park would be open to the public.

"Sometime this fall," Yorwarth said.

"You're talking this year," Kalejta said.

"Absolutely," Yorwarth replied.

Yorwarth said non-motorized use is in the master plan, and Mack added that he had been in touch with a mountain biking group about hosting events at the AOAA. However, developing the site is dependent on the receipt of additional state funds, which is pending approval.

Use of the land is essentially restricted to insured off-road riding groups at the present time. However, authority members said anyone interested in organizing as a group and using the land for non-motorized activity are encouraged to seek permission from the AOAA.

ATR admission

Authority members announced the local riding group, Anthracite Trail Riders, is now insured, and voted to set the cost of yearly passes for ATR members for the remainder of 2013: $40 for ATV/UTV/dirt bikes, $50 for full-size vehicles, $10 for children and passengers.

ATR is hosting a benefit ride Sept. 14 to support Geisinger's Children's Miracle Network. Details for the event can be found in the "events" section at www.anthraciteadventure.com.

Volunteers were permitted property use on Sept. 7 to review trails and prepare for the event.

Signs

Dave Crowl, authority member, said volunteers from the trails and operations committees worked this past weekend to post AOAA property. Most of the eastern end and half of the western end is now posted, he said.

Some trees were discovered to have been cut down, he said, and there are some questions about land boundaries. Both topics were to be discussed with the authority's solicitor, he said.

No more than $300 was approved to be spent on T-shirts for AOAA volunteers. The shirts and ID tags will be used when working on the property.

A $400 expenditure was approved by the authority to purchase yellow signs acknowledging the AOAA boundaries throughout the property.

Crowl said the authority is working with a neighbor, Eastern Industries, to cut down on trespassing.

Other business

The authority received $320 in cash from the Delaware Jeep Association for its ride on July 27.

FJ Brewsers of Virginia were given permission to use the property Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Forty riders are expected.

Approximately 23 riders from ATR used the land on Aug. 17 and 10 riders from Lehigh Valley Trail Riders earlier this month. Yorwarth said a Polaris group wants to return Sept. 13.