Locals benefit from AOAA event
COAL TOWNSHIP - Winners at last weekend's event at the proposed Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) went beyond those riding dirt bikes.
Local fire companies, businesses and even a few police officers were beneficiaries of the "Anthracite Hare Scrambles," two days of motorcycle competition sponsored by the Valley Forge Trail Riders.
It was one of the largest events to take place yet on county-owned land that is scheduled to formally become the AOAA when enough funding is secured.
"I thought it went very well," said Pat Mack, director of the Northumberland County Planning Department, which has been overseeing the AOAA project. "It was a little hot and there were a few things to learn from, but everything being considered, it was good."
Mack said fire companies from East Cameron Township and Trevorton, along with the Kulpmont Ambulance Squad and AREA Services, were given donations for their on-site services.
Another emergency organization, Friendship Fire Company in Shamokin, also did well with its food trailer.
"They called the planning commission and wanted to know if they could set up their trailer there to sell food, and no one had a problem with it," Mack said
about how Friendship secured that job.
The rolling concession stand turned out to be a hit.
"From what I was told, they raised a month's worth of funds in about two days work up there," Mack said.
A spokesman at Friendship confirmed the organization did well, but did not want to discuss specifics.
Mack and other county officials have said they encourage local businesses that may want to sell food or other goods for similar events to contact the planning department.
County revenue, too
The county also earned some money, although where it ends up has yet to be determined.
Mack said Friday he is awaiting final calculations from Valley Forge to determine the county's income. He said the county was expecting to receive approximately $5 for every racer who competed, which was estimated at 400.
"At the minimum, we are looking at a $2,000 payment," he said.
Mack hopes the revenue will go toward making a fully operational AOAA a reality.
But, "That decision is up to the commissioners," he said.
Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi seemed to agree, however.
"I said we won't use general fund money for it to get started, and we won't take money from it, either," he said. "We want to make it self-sufficient. The money should stay with the AOAA."
Coal Township also made a deal with the trail riding group for security work by two local police officers. Township chief William Carpenter said the officers were hired by the group at the township overtime rate.
"It didn't cost the township anything," he said.
Carpenter said the event went smoothly.
"Traffic was handled very well and there was only one minor incident when a four-wheeler plowed through the course," he said.
Other local businesses were called upon as the logistics of the event were being planned.
A representative of Dan Shingara Enterprises, Shamokin, said Valley Forge called ahead of time to have a Dumpster and a dozen port-a-potties on site. The result was $1,000 in revenue for the business.
Rick Kivela, president of Valley Forge Trail Riders, noted last week his group had spent more than $3,000 renting equipment locally - anything from lawn mowers and skid steers to the port-a-potties.
Also, Mack said AOAA project manager Kathy Jeremiah spoke with a manager for the Turkey Hill store on Lincoln Street in Shamokin, who told her they definitely saw an impact from the racers coming in to buy gas, drinks and other items. The store sold out of ice, they were told.
Next up: Jeep USA
Mack and organizers are now getting ready for the next event at the AOAA, the Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree USA on the first weekend of August. The county planning director hopes even more people will benefit this time
"I would love to see us get far larger than what was done last weekend," Mack said. "I want to see everyone on the mountain enjoying the event and giving organizations and businesses the opportunity to sell there wares. We can only grow from here."
Critics of the AOAA project remain, however. Many are upset that the county is now controlling land that it once allowed people to ride on and hunt on for free and without restrictions. Others don't believe the county should be in the off-road business, and believe the project is being pushed despite concerns for any environmental impact.
The AOAA is designed to cover more than 6,596 acres spread across Coal, Mount Carmel, East and West Cameron and Zerbe townships.
In mid-December, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Northumberland County will receive $1.5 million in state money to further develop the park. Other money has been collected from government sources and donations, including from major off-road vehicle manufacturers, but no formal opening is imminent as the county seeks more money.