TREVORTON - More than two dozen residents and small business owners attended the Zerbe Township meeting Monday night to voice concerns about the recent crackdown on illegal ATV riders on the Reading Anthracite Company's property.

Many business owners were in attendance after seeing a downturn in business correlating to the attempts to stem the illegal riding.

Prior to opening the floor to public comment, Chairman Michael Schwartz told the audience the loss of business revenue from illegal riders would not outweigh the long-term benefit of curbing problems like dust, noise and injuries, whichcame along with these riders.

Citing the Hatfield-McCoy riding area located in West Virginia as an example of what Trevorton could become, Schwartz said that by becoming a safer riding environment, the town

would prosper through the additional legal businesses a family-friendly riding area would attract.

"We want to see your businesses prosper, but we have to start somewhere," said Schwartz. "There's going to be some pain at first."

"There's going to be a transition period," added Supervisor Michael Mazer.

Supervisor Gene Geise, who is also president of the Trevorton Community Ambulance Association, said the ambulance company had not received any calls for an ATV accident for six weeks.

"Before that, we were running every weekend," he said.

Schwartz did his best to reassure the packed house that a proposal to add an entrance to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) was still part of the master plan.

He said the gate, which would be part of the still undeveloped portion to the west of the trailhead, was still on the agenda but due to issues with easement rights, the plan could not yet move forward.

The AOAA, the area's first public ATV park, opened May 17.

Richard Morgan, security manager for Reading, attended his first Zerbe Township meeting five days earlier.

The arrival of Morgan marked a change in dynamic for the relationship between Zerbe Township and Reading.

Morgan organized several crackdowns on illegal riders. During the crackdowns, members of Reading security, Zerbe Township police and the Pennsylvania State Police Auto Theft Task Force work together to cite riders without permits and locate stolen ATVs.

At least two of these crackdowns have taken place.

Zerbe Township Police Chief Robert John estimated he had written between 18 and 20 citations for trespassing and encountered 20 to 30 permitted riders during the crackdowns.

As more crackdowns occur, fewer illegal riders are drawn to the area, which in turns means fewer complaints for residents.

"There's not as much noise in town, not as much dust," said Schwartz.

At the May 12 meeting, Morgan presented data from a survey showing that Trevorton residents were not bothered by the dust and noise created from ATV riding on Reading's property.

Attendees at the meeting were openly critical of this data, with many residents opining that they had not been surveyed.

Zerbe Township supervisors have since released a survey accompanying all residents' sewer bills.

Schwartz announced at the meeting that while not all of the surveys have been returned yet, they have received 119 signatures on petitions that state that the dust caused by ATV riders is an issue.

Only one respondent stated she did not mind the dust.

Residents attending the meeting brought up the dust complaints. Several pointed out that the very nature of Trevorton as a coal town meant coal dust would be present.

Some felt as though the crackdown on Coal Hill, which has partially been attributed to the dust cloud that descends on Trevorton most weekends, happened abruptly. The supervisors, as well as John, disagreed with this.

"I've been out here for six years," said John. "There's been nothing but complaints of people riding out there. I can't even say how many complaints were received."

Resident Earl Rebuck said he thought there was a problem with the amount of dust and noise caused by the ATV riders.

"It is very annoying," said Rebuck.

Resident Mike Purcell questioned why Reading couldn't control the dust better.

"When Reading was there, they actually watered it," he said, describing the water trucks that would calm the dust.

Schwartz said he would support Reading using a water truck. He said the supervisors' goal was not to end riding on Reading's property altogether, but to get Reading to enforce their own permits.

Resident Rachel Foote wanted to know why Zerbe Township hasn't found a way to profit from the riding on Reading's property. She proposed many ideas, ranging from purchasing the land from Reading to sending a petition to Reading.

"You have people coming in on the weekends because of these attractions and these attractions are taken away," said Foote.

Schwartz responded by inviting Foote and the other business owners to the next AOAA meeting so the AOAA authority could work with the businesses on finding ways to profit from the existing legal riding.

At least one local business is already profiting from the transition to legal riding. Mountainside Motorsports, located almost adjacent to Reading's Coal Hill property, has begun selling permits on behalf of Reading. Schwartz said he thought the sold at least 20 permits so far.