COAL TOWNSHIP - The owner of an area Jeep dealership who provided parts and other services for the inaugural Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree believes its success will lead to more national events at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).

Robert Zimmerman, owner of Zimmerman Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Sunbury, who was at the event near Burnside Saturday afternoon, said he had been to five other events sponsored by Jeep Jamboree USA (JJUSA) in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"From attending those other events, I got the feeling of how exciting it would be to have a Jeep jamboree this close to home," Zimmerman said.

He got that wish when Northumberland County and JJUSA made arrangements last December for a jamboree at the county-owned AOAA property.

The sold-out event, which began with registration and vehicle evaluations Thursday evening and then involved eight hours on mountainous trail-riding

both Friday and Saturday for 109 vehicles and 211 participants, wrapped up with a dinner at Wayside Inn, Weigh Scales. There, a key JJUSA representative all but guaranteed they'd be back.

"Everybody was pleased with this weekend's event and we are already planning it for next year," said Glenda Gau, adventure consultant. "All we need is a date."

At the dinner, surveys were completed by participants that contained comments and ratings for the Coal Mountain Jamboree.

"We take the surveys very seriously because we are always looking for ways to improve our events," she said.

The county, which hosted an off-road motorcycle racing event at AOAA June 30 and July 1, hopes to continue to find funds to develop the park and draw off-highway vehicle enthusiasts from throughout the East Coast to the area and help the local economy.

Family fun

The Jeep Jamboree USA concept is similar at all its events, Zimmerman said, and provides a family oriented environment.

"Jeep Jamboree organizers and their trail guides did a great job making the courses challenging, but more importantly, supplying the participants with a fun-filled weekend," he said.

He noted that military veteran Bill Abers of the Selinsgrove area purchased a brand new 2011 Call of Duty Jeep Wrangler Unlimited from his dealership so he could compete in this weekend's event and others.

He said the trail guides used by Jeep Jamboree USA are not only knowledgeable about the terrain, but very personable, which puts many Jeep drivers and passengers at ease.

Zimmerman owner said only three incidents involving vehicle breakdowns were reported as of early Saturday afternoon. He said those incidents involved busted axles, replacing ball joints and overheating.

"This was a fine cooperative effort between the national staff and local trail guides," he said. "It was a little warm, but the weather overall was very cooperative. Everything went pretty smooth for a first-time event."

25 feet up, and down

Participants continued to ride the various two-way trails until approximately 5 p.m. Saturday on the 6,000-acre, county-owned property that covers parts of Coal, Mount Carmel, East Cameron, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. Riders chose their own trails that differed in difficulty. The most challenging trail, known as "cold black," included various steep hills and other obstacles. One of the most challenging tasks conquered by riders Saturday was ascending and descending a 25-foot hillside.

Barry Yorwarth, one of the local trail guides, provided a News-Item reporter and photographer a ride Saturday afternoon in his pickup truck through one of the more rocky and hilly trails. When it started to rain hard along the trail at about 3 p.m., Yorwarth commented, "Every trail level just went up two notches."

Asked about the event's impact on the environment, a concern among some locals who don't like the idea of a county-owned off-highway vehicle park, Yorwarth said the AOAA will "use the land, not abuse it."

Concerns for environment

There have been complaints that development of the AOAA has led to trail-cutting that has impacted the natural beauty of the area and that animal habitats will be disturbed.

Yorwarth, who serves on the steering committee for the AOAA, said the county received permission from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to trim some of the trails, but said only minimal amounts of cutting can be done to trees.

"We want to keep as many of the existing trees, rocks, hills and other obstacles in place because those things make the trails challenging," he said.

Pat Mack, director of the Northumberland County Planning Department, said there were no new trails created for this event. Riders used those that already existed from years of off-roading and partying on the property.

There were no incidents over the weekend regarding any opposition to AOAA, although it remains an active subject of discussion on the Internet.

'Huge success'

The planning department charged $30 per vehicle, or $3,270, for hosting the jamboree. Mack, who serves as co-coordinator of the AOAA with county grants manager Kathy Jeremiah, said money generated from the jamboree will go toward future development of the AOAA.

"I think it was a huge success for a first-time jamboree," Mack said at Saturday night's dinner at the Wayside. "And that's a testament to a lot of hard work by a lot of volunteers."