COAL TOWNSHIP - Jeep Jamboree USA's event at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) was so popular last year, the group is returning in 2013.

Twice.

The early August Coal Mountain trail ride sold out in less than one hour, so the California-based organization booked a second event for early June.

The Coal Mountain ride is one of six sellouts among JJUSA's 31 rides planned nationwide. With upward of 500 people on a waiting list leftover from the sellouts, it's expected the June event at AOAA will fill up fast, too.

"I could guarantee it with my best pair of shoes," Glenda Gau, a Jamboree official, said this week of the potential for a second AOAA sellout.

Registrations in city

Jamboree officials are working with Shamokin's City Hall to host the public at registration for both events at Claude Kehler Community Park, Arch and Third streets. City Clerk Steve Bartos has spoken of the initiative, describing a block party-style atmosphere with vendors and entertainment.

Barry Yorwarth, one of five members of the AOAA Authority board, said JJUSA returning for a second visit within one summer speaks for itself. The group is roughly four-decades old, is nationally known, and is a partner with the Jeep brand.

"When you get a company of their stature to come to your area and have just one event, it's quite a task," he said.

The two Jamboree events are among four rides planned so far for this summer at the 6,500-acre park, which is hosting events while it remains under development by Northumberland County. The Valley Forge Trail Riders Hare Scramble will return in May and the Hummer Club Northeast Nationals will be there in late June. A Land Rover club is also considering visiting AOAA.

Ninety vehicles are registered for the Aug. 1 to 3 Jamboree. Eighty-one vehicles drove the coal hills south of Shamokin during the Jeep event last summer, attracting some 210 participants and guides, Gau said.

She expects similar numbers for the June 6 to 8 event, dubbed the Pirate Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree.

The fact that the AOAA, still in its infancy - with plans for a welcome center only formally announced this week - is being sought out is a positive, said Yorwarth. The key is that AOAA has the one thing off-roaders want: great riding trails.

"That was just unbelievable that they came when that's all we have to offer them (so far)," Yorwarth said.

JJUSA describes the AOAA as offering trails from a range of 3 to 9 in difficulty. That means everything from moderately demanding trails thought to be a challenge for beginners, to demanding trails with deeper-steeper-larger obstacles, to very demanding trails where, as the group's website puts it in tribute, "the likelihood of getting stuck is high."

All the better for off-road enthusiasts, to which the local riders can attest.

Where to stay?

When the Jeep Jamboree returns, its participants will be staying at a hotel in Frackville. Of all the positive reviews AOAA got last year, the drawbacks for the visitors was a lack of local lodging. Gau said she's been seeking out local campgrounds as possibilities for interested participants. Some of last year's participants reportedly stayed at Knoebels Amusement Resort.

If the park is fully developed and becomes an attraction, there's long been speculation it would spur service-sector development.

"They want to do more things than just come here, play on the mountain and go home," Yorwarth said.

Gau sees the potential for economic development, calling the opportunity at AOAA a "huge" one. She's fielded phone calls from supporters and local entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the development.

At Tuesday night's authority meeting, local Realtor Joe Bressi discussed his development of a campground on land between Trevorton and Gowen City, a project spurred by the AOAA.

Gau also acknowledged the undercurrent of opposition among some area residents. That was clear by a smattering of signs displayed last summer protesting the park, including one that said, "Riders go home."

"People resist change. I think we're comfortable with what we know," she said. "A lot of residents in that area are used to going out and riding the terrain without having to ride with permit fees and regulations."