Family atmosphere at AOAA Trailgating Walk
COAL TOWNSHIP - The second annual Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Trailgating Walk, held Saturday at the developing recreational site above Burnside, succeeded in fostering a family atmosphere.
Mothers and fathers chatted as they moved about to keep warm on a chilly morning as their children played in the dirt nearby, searching for ant holes. Small groups of friends also talked to pass the time before the walk, meandering among the few stands set up by vendors.
Kathy Jeremiah, Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) project coordinator, had to envision the scene as
a good start for the planned recreational site.
"We wanted to show that this is a facility families can enjoy," she said before the walk through the non-motorized portion of the park.
"I want to show people in our area what this area looks like. Some people have never been out here."
One thing it looked like was clean. More than 80 volunteers scoured a portion of AOAA two weeks prior, filling up a 30-yard rolloff container full of trash and debris dumped in the woods illegally.
The walk covered 3.25 miles of the non-motorized portion of the site, which remains in a planning phase.
AOAA is designed to cover more than 6,500 acres of county-owned land spread across Coal, Mount Carmel, East and West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The non-motorized portion will be tailored toward hikers, bikers, campers, hunters and equestrians. The remainder will be for motorized activity.
Forty-eight people registered for the walk this year. That's less than half of the 100 that turned out last year, but Jeremiah said she expected a lower turnout because of the chilly and overcast weather.
Angela Rice, Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 3254, Shamokin, was waiting with her son, JoRay Griffiths, for his fellow Cub Scouts to arrive. The Cub Scouts went to the original walk last year and Rice thought it good to return a second time.
"We need something in this area. We've reclaimed the land and more people should take advantage of it, not just trucks and ATVs," Rice said.
Coal Township residents Jim Reidell and Paul M. Leshinskie were more cautious about the potential of the park.
Leshinskie has been walking the woods for 50 years; Reidell, 30 years. Each had mixed feelings about the future of AOAA and its impact on local residents who grew up with free access.
"It's hard to get used to," Reidell said of the idea of AOAA and regulations that would accompany it.
Leshinskie spoke of potential restrictions if the AOAA is opened. He spoke, too, of the potential costs from proposed fees.
"Too many things you'll have to buy for access that we always had for free," he said.
Despite their reservations, both Reidell and Leshinskie said they hoped AOAA would benefit the local economy.
The Trailgating Walk was held in conjunction with American Hiking Society's 2012 National Trails Day, the 20th such event. AOAA and Phoenix Rehabilitation organized the local walk. Northumberland County Conservation District, VNA Health System and Far Point Animal Rescue all had stands set up at the event.
Free water and dog treats were available and several prizes, including a free home assessment from Bressi and Martin and a $50 bank card, were awarded.