Riders from near and far participate in ride at AOAA
COAL TOWNSHIP - They were bundled up for the weather when it started and covered with mud when it ended - and loved every minute in between.
Riders rode the trails of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Saturday for the second annual Anthracite Trail Riders trail ride which benefits the Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger Medical Center.
The riders came from as far as New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Among them was Patrick Ness, of Port Deposit, Md. who was there with his 12-year-old son, Michael.
"I've been riding along these roads for about eight years, and there's been work done, but it's always a good, sloppy time, which is what we like," Ness said.
For Linda Fertig, of Pitman, Saturday was the first time she rode with her friends on the AOAA land.
"It's great to come out here and do what we love for such a great cause as Geisinger," Fertig said. "It's wonderful to have a place like this so close to home with so much land to ride on."
Kerry Dibble, of Lebanon, wasn't sure if he was going to make it to Saturday's ride because his ATV was stolen two weeks ago.
"The thief couldn't figure out how to start it, so he just pushed it down the road and when he got tired, lit it on fire," Dibble said.
Dibble worked for the last two weeks to get his quad runner ready for Saturday's trail ride, and he wasn't disappointed.
"The ride was great." Dibble said. "It was very smooth and challenging in some spots, but easy in others. A very good trail ride all around."
Calley Kalie, assistant coordinator for the Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger, said that the number of riders should easily eclipse last year's mark of 250 riders.
"We have been busy since we opened registration at 8 a.m.," Kalie said. "This was the first year we had pre-registration. We had about 60 riders sign up for that, so it's a good day."
Matt Schiccatano, president of the Anthracite Trail Riders, event sponsor, was pleased with the turnout, and he knows the event's future is bright.
"Right now, we are dealing with issues with the construction going on. Next year, the ride will be bigger and better than ever," Schiccatano said.
Schiccatano thanked the AOAA Authority for giving permission to hold the event.
"Our group, the Anthracite Trail Riders, loves working with the AOAA, and we will continue to do so to bring great events like this to the Shamokin area," Schiccatano said.
Kathy Jeremiah, grant writer for the Northumberland County Planning Department, said AOAA Authority members were there all day, talking to riders, hearing their opinions and answering questions about what the future will bring for the 6,500 acres of forest and abandoned coal lands in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships.
"A lot of people are asking us about when it's going to be open, what it will cost to buy a season-long pass and how the project is going," Jeremiah said. "That's all good, because we know people are talking about it."
Community spirit was evident at the AOAA as several businesses and community organizations set up vendor tents. Items available included food, and the Forest Hill Fire Company was offering ATV washes for a donation.
One vendor, Schreffler Equipment, of Pitman, was actually able to sell a new vehicle to one of the riders Saturday.
"The safety regulations in place said that they couldn't ride two people on a quad, so he went to Randy and purchased a new piece of equipment," Jeremiah said.
"He's been a friend of mine for years and we bought stuff from each other back and forth, since he has a car dealership," said Randy Schreffler, owner. "You come to these events to get your name out and expect someone to visit you a week or a month later. When I came here today, I didn't expect to sell a $15,000 RZR vehicle."
It is the camaraderie of the riders and friends and family coming together that impresses Kalie.
"Not many people look at this as a sport, but it is a sport that brings families together, and family is what the Children's Miracle Network is all about," Kalie said. "ATR and the AOAA have been very good to us and we hope to see that continue in the future."