Right time to ride
BURNSIDE - The long holiday weekend's nearly perfect weather brought outdoor enthusiasts to the region for off roading fun.
Many of the riders cruised down the trails at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, which opened last weekend, for the very first time.
Brian Shurock, the AOAA's administrative assistant, said Sunday afternoon that the park had already sold over 250 passes that weekend.
Shurock said that he met visitors from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia as well as many people from Pennsylvania.
The park will also be open today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the holiday.
Authority member Pat Mack said the AOAA authority was thrilled with the response to the park so far.
"We are slowly growing and slowly getting more interest," said Mack. "We've had a lot of smiling faces and a lot of people taking information about the area and saying they'll be back."
Corey Welk, who was visiting from Aston with his father, Rick, said he had previously ridden on the land before it became the AOAA and was not deterred by the licensing.
"Pay the yearly thing, wear the helmet, wear the googles," said Welk. "You only have one head."
The busy weekend at the AOAA has drawn interest from local businesses. Shurock said he'd been contacted by a few businesses interested in becoming food vendors, a New Jersey club that is buying a house to create a bed and breakfast for members to use while vising the AOAA and a person who was considering opening a campground.
One Smart Cookie, a local catering service, sold hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage hoagies and pulled pork at the AOAA trailhead for the weekend. Jennifer Marshall, bookkeeper for One Smart Cookie, said they had served to between 80 and 100 customers on Saturday, and Sunday was even busier.
Curtis Dall, who had traveled from Lancaster on Sunday to visiting the AOAA for the first time, said the availability of food right at the trailhead was one of the reasons he decided he would purchase an annual pass.
Dall and his 12 year old son, Matthew Dall, and their friends, Duane Dinger and his 13 year old son, Chad Dinger, purchased lunch at One Smart Cookie. They had also breakfasted at Maurer's Dairy and Ice Cream Shop in Shamokin before hitting the trails.
Dall said he was initially unsure about committing to an annual pass. He visited last weekend and talked to the staff, which resulted in him coming this weekend on a one day pass. He cited the availability of bathhouses and the safety regulations as other reasons for his jump to an annual pass.
Duane Dinger said that despite the land being made safe from old mines the land hadn't lost any appeal to him.
"It's perfect terrain," he said.
Chad Dinger was enthusiastic about returning.
"I like it because there's a map, lots of trails, and a very nice, paved, safe area," he said. "You don't have to park your car on the side of the road."
Reading Anthracite's property in Zerbe Township was also a big draw for ATV enthusiasts over the weekend.
A group of eight riders, aged 13 to 17, traveled from Williamsport to visit Coal Hill, an area known in the ATV community for its unique steep climbs.
"There's a lot of different varieties of hills," said Jared Poorman, 16.
Poorman said the group had not yet been to the AOAA because they were unfamiliar with it. He indicated that he might not be interested due to infrequent visits to the area.
Shelly Anderson, from York, said she was seeking more information about the AOAA because she was considering buying passes.
"We used to ride over there and we would be interested in it," said Anderson.
Anderson and approximately nine other adults were camping this weekend at the area known locally as "the flats" on Reading Anthracite's property. She said part of the reason they had picked the flats for their weekend outing was because they had spent many years riding the AOAA land and needed something different.
"We just rode out there so much," said Anderson.
Scott Grobrecht, of New Cumberland, said he hadn't heard of the AOAA but was also interested in more information. He said he would definitely buy a pass to an area that had better regulations, especially regarding dumping.
"This place is a dump. No one has respect for anyone's stuff out here," said Grobrecht. "If people respect the land it would be better."
Barry Dove, of Harrisburg, echoed that sentiment.
"They trash the land," Dove said, pointing out the garbage and bonfire sites that littered the forest. "We take (our trash) along with us."
Dove said he had been riding off-road motorcycles in the Coal Region since he was a child and had taught his son Bradley, now 29, to ride in Blackwood when he was three. He was also unfamiliar with the AOAA but said he wanted to stop at the trailhead this weekend and get more information.
The possibility of paying for a license in exchange for comfort facilities intrigued Dove.
"It'd be nice to go out riding and take a shower before you go home," said Dove.
The prospect of indoor plumbing did nothing to entice Bob Newberry, of Chester County.
"We just use the facilities out here," said Newberry, motioning to the forest.
Newberry said he would not be interested in paying for a license because he can camp and ride for free on Reading Anthracite's property.
Newberry, who was camping with a group of approximately 75 people, said he visits the flats regularly to ride a variety of off-road vehicles.
"This is our spot," said Newberry, noting that the group had created a check-in location on Facebook.
Camping is illegal under Reading Anthracite's rules, but the riders at the flats didn't seem concerned with fines.
"I never saw a police officer ever since we've been here," said Dove.