Fifth in a series

BURNSIDE - The 6,500-acre Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) is generating a buzz within the national ATV community ahead of its official opening this weekend.

Equipment manufacturers like Yamaha, Polaris and Kawasaki have already shown support for the AOAA's development.

Yamaha, in fact, granted the county $20,000 for trail development, mapping and signage. It is investing heavily in the opening by sending a tractor-trailer filled with demo equipment and activities. Representatives will be available throughout the weekend to guide riders in testing out Yamaha ATVs and side-by-sides.

"It's a pretty big deal for us to take (the trailer) off the road and bring it in," said Steve Nessl,‎marketing manager for Yamaha Motor Corp. "It's an indication of how big a deal it is for us and the (riding) community in general."

Polaris awarded the county a $10,000 grant for trail design and development and one of its local dealers, Schreffler Equipment, Pitman, will be among the vendors at the park this weekend.

Kawasaki's media representative, Jon Rall, said that although the company was not hosting a vendor site, he plans to travel from California to attend the opening weekend.

"I'm just coming to support it," said Rall. "It's a great place for our consumers. It's just a gorgeous area."

'Positive attitude'

Local small businesses have been eagerly anticipating the opening of the AOAA, which was designed with tourism and economic development in mind.

Tom Sebastian, owner of Gap Racing in Locust Gap, has been watching the development of the AOAA since it was first announced about five years ago. He plans to have a small display at the site on opening weekend.

"A lot of manufacturers and suppliers and businesses in the industry are anticipating (the opening) with a positive attitude," said Sebastian.

As the operator of one of the area's largest off-road parts stores, Sebastian frequently interacts with local ATV riders. He said sentiments from riders in the region are mixed; many are excited, while others are cautious of the park's longevity or prepared for its failure.

"It just seems like the negativity seems to still linger even though the park's a reality right now," said Sebastian. "I feel it's going to be very successful."

'Exceptional' riding

As an administrator for the Pennsylvania Off Highway Vehicle Association, Tom McClure has a broader view of the conversations being generated by the AOAA. He indicated that riders across the state are eager for the AOAA to open.

"The buzz that exists within the community is excitement and always positive," said McClure. "I have no doubt that it will be a heavily used riding facility."

Because of the AOAA's mountainous location amid abandoned coal lands, the terrain is vastly different from other ATV sites.

"It's a spectacular site geographically," McClure said. "The topography is extraordinary. The riding opportunity is exceptional."

Nessl agreed the AOAA is unlike any other site.

"It's a unique situation in general to be able to do what they're doing, to take an area that's there and turn it into a riding area based on what it used to be," said Nessl.

Family friendly

Sebastian believes the AOAA's well-planned and monitored land offers something other locations - including local riding at places such as Coal Hill in Trevorton - don't.

"I think there's a definite need for controlled riding areas," he said. "There are a lot of good, family-oriented people that like to ride ATVs and motorcycles, and (they) just feel a little unsafe being in outlaw areas where people just go berserk and don't have any rules to follow." Rall agrees the atmosphere at the AOAA is one that will attract a demographic of adults with children.

"It'll be a good place for families to come and spend a weekend," he said.

Sebastian said he was grateful to the government entities that invested in bringing the AOAA to fruition.

"I've ridden all over the country and I've seen on numerous occasions that parks have closed down," he said. "I think we take it all for granted how lucky we are to have such vast riding areas in our own backyard. And if we have to pay a small fee, that's really a drop in the bucket compared to what we have."