President of Habitat for Wildlife not happy with hunting in Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, but still thinks it's a step in the right direction
COAL TOWNSHIP - Dave Kaleta is not completely satisfied with the recent announcement from the county regarding the limited hunting on the 6,000-plus acres of Northumberland County-owned land being developed for a recreation area.
"The maps pleased me, but other people would like to see more areas that are more open for hunting and less for vehicles," said the president of Habitat for Wildlife.
The proposed plan for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area has a section called the "Alaska Site," which will permit hunting on the property year-round with respect to the various seasons established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and will be closed year-round to motorized activity.
The remaining property would be opened for hunting from the Saturday before Thanksgiving until the first full week of January, also with respect to the game commission. During this time period, the park would be closed to all other activities.
This encompasses a portion of the fall and winter small game season, such as rabbit, squirrel, grouse, pheasant, quail and turkey, bear season, deer (rifle) season, a portion of the deer winter archery season, bobcat season and portion of the raccoon and fox season.
The hunters, who have enjoyed use of the land without charge, would continue this complimentary practice when the park officially opens.
Those details, still tentative, were presented Tuesday night as part of the second public meeting regarding the park, formerly called the "Northumberland County Off-Highway Vehicle Park" and the "Anthracite Outdoor Recreation Area. Two pages on hunting were included in the PowerPoint presented at Tuesday's meeting by Pashek Associates, the Pittsburgh-based consulting firm hired by the county to plan the park.
The hunting community was critical of the county's plan when it was first presented in July, saying its needs were ignored. It was also noted that many people now hunt on the county land without restriction.
When Kaleta was reached by cellphone Wednesday afternoon, he was hunting on the Coal Township section of the county-owned land near old radio towers and already had three birds in his bag.
His primary game animal is the woodcock, which is in season for three weeks starting in mid-October. Hunting such animals in his favorite hunting spots would be out of the question.
"I wouldn't be able to hunt here," he said.
He added that he didn't think the park would need to be closed, especially in the designated areas where there would be minimal motorized use.
He explained that archery is the safest way to hunt. Shotgun season for birds, he added, is safe as well, because the range for shotguns are 40 to 50 yards.
"I don't see why they should restrict hunting at all," he said.
However, he said, he thinks the direction the county is headed is a positive one.
"I'm happy with the direction things are going," he said.
Northumberland County Planning Commission Director Pat Mack said the plan included hunting all along.
"Any changes were because of public input. We had never established a hunting policy until now," he said.
The time period in which the park would be closed for hunting was designed to include as many hunting seasons as possible, as discussed by the consultants and the steering committee.
"This is how we can fit it in. It hits the most season," he said.
After the meeting Tuesday, said Mack, the county and the consultants plan to take all the new input and look at everything again.
"We have to revisit and make sure we're heading in the right direction, and that's true for all the input yesterday," he said.
Also discussed at Tuesday night's meeting:
- The primary and only entrance to the park will be in eastern section off Route 125.
- Anyone utilizing the park must register and provide photo identification. Anyone without photo ID must provide proof of age or have parents' consent.
- All trail users must have a valid Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area permit.
- No alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs may be carried onto or consumed on the property. No person under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any illegal substances that may hinder thinking ability or reaction time will be permitted access to the property.
- All ATVS and off-highway motorcycles must have a properly functioning muffler and USFS approved spark arrestor. ATVs and motorcycles may not exceed an engine noise limit above 96 decibels. All full-sized vehicles must have the following: at least one tow point, proper roll-over protection to include the passengers, battery tie down, seatbelts for everyone in the vehicle, fire extinguishers and trash bags for liquid spills. All rides must have appropriate safety equipment.
- Swimming is restricted to designated swimming areas that have been evaluated for safety. No lifeguards will be provided. Swimming must be done in groups of two or more. A responsible adult must be present at all times.