'Gigantic win for the environment'
BURNSIDE - Marcus Kohl said people are more apt to throw stones when the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gets involved in major projects such as what has taken place at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
But the agency was welcomed in this effort from day one, said Kohl, director of DEP's northcentral region in Williamsport.
"They asked how do we do it, and how do we do it right?" Kohl said in recalling early communications with the AOAA Authority.
Kohl spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the park and reiterated afterward what the new facility can mean for an improved environment in eastern Northumberland County.
"Doing it right" started with the fact that the AOAA reached out to DEP, Kohl said.
By doing so, the park has brought attention to the hazards remaining from deep and strip mining that has taken place on the land for centuries. Among the grants received by the AOAA is one for $353,000 from the Marcellus Legacy Fund. It will be combined with a $90,000 grant from the Growing Greener fund received by the Northumberland County Conservation District (NCCD) to treat of acid-mine drainage in Carbon Run, a tributary of Shamokin Creek, starting next year.
Among the AOAA's committees is one on conservation, and it includes representatives from NCCD, DEP, the Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which was represented by its top officer, Secretary Ellen Ferretti, at the AOAA Friday.
Beyond the mining hazards themselves, though, the AOAA is protecting the environment by reducing the number of miles of trails that have been made through the years by riders on the 6,500 acres of county-owned land that make up the facility, Kohl said.
"You reduce the miles, you reduce the impact," he said.
Also, AOAA developers inquired about wetlands and they've worked with the American Chestnut Foundation to plant trees. And perhaps most importantly, they've removed tons of garbage and hundreds of tires dumped illegally on the land.
"My first time here I was probably standing in a pile of trash," Kohl told the crowd during his brief remarks.
He's had discussions with authority chairman Jim Backes, too, about installing a rain garden near the welcome center to capture runoff from the kind of storms that hit the region in the hours leading up to Friday's ceremony, and about using the facility as an educational site.
Overall, he said he's impressed with the effort to include the environment in a project that to most observers seems focused on recreation.
"It's a gigantic win for the environment," he said.