Year-round hunting not allowed on 'Alaska site'
The 342-acre "Alaska site" near Excelsior, scheduled to remain open year-round for hunting under the master plan for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), will only be available for hunting from the middle of November until the end of January, same as the rest of the 6,500-acre property.
That's according to a policy governing the off-highway vehicle park approved Monday at a special meeting of the Northumberland County commissioners.
County Planning and Industrial Development Director Pat Mack said the policy, which took effect upon the commissioners' OK, and a related ordinance that is expected to be passed by the county commissioners Tuesday, will most likely remain in effect until AOAA authority members take office in January.
The five-member authority, whose members were appointed at Monday's meeting, will operate and maintain the AOAA. Mack said the authority could revise the policy and allow the Alaska site to remain open for hunting year-round.
Mack said the planning department deviated from the master plan in regard to hunting at the Alaska site because it wanted all the land designated for the AOAA to be inclusive in the policy governing use.
"It wasn't done in spite of the lawsuit pending against the county," Mack said Thursday. "We didn't consider making an exception for any particular section of the AOAA, but that's not to say the authority won't make an exception and allow hunting at the Alaska year-round."
David F. Kaleta, 54, of Shamokin, who sued the commissioners and county last month for banning him from the AOAA property and violating the Sunshine Act, helped rehabilitate former mining land on the Alaska site, removed trash and planted trees and vegetation that attract animals and birds in his volunteer role as president of the former Habitat for Wildlife.
"The restrictions on the Alaska site doesn't affect me at all," Kaleta said when contacted Thursday night. "(Commissioner) Vinny (Clausi) previously said I had my own private hunting club at the Alaska site. Well, now I have 6,500 acres for my own private hunting club thanks to Judge (Charles) Saylor's order," Kaleta said, referencing Saylor's approval of Kaleta's request for an injunction that stops the county from banning Kaleta while his lawsuit proceeds.
He added, "If I wanted my own hunting club, I wouldn't have spent several hours on the telephone today encouraging hunters and non-hunters to attend Tuesday's commissioners' meeting. I am interested in their rights as well as my own."
Kaleta said he fought to keep the Alaska site open for public use for 12 years and noted the only reason it was gated was because of illegal activities such as illegal dumping and ATV riders running through food plots and freshly planted trees.
"I urge all interested persons to attend Tuesday's meeting at 1 p.m. at the administration center because, as of Tuesday, you won't be able to even go on the land to pick mushrooms," he said.
Mack clarified Thursday that, while the policy says parking will be prohibited directly on AOAA property where hunting may occur, it will be allowed at the entrance to the park on the northeast side of Route 125 near the top of the Burnside mountain, where vehicles have parked for previous events at the AOAA, including the inaugural Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree in August.
Under the policy, hunting will be allowed, at no cost, at the AOAA between the middle of November and end of January. The county planning department will be responsible for enforcing rules and regulations for the park until the authority takes over.
Outside of hunting season, the AOAA land will be open only to formally organized groups.
Operating hours for the AOAA will be from dawn until dusk and nobody will be granted access to the park after dusk unless they obtain a special camping permit.
Clausi and Stephen Bridy approved the policy and advertisement of the ordinance, while Commissioner Richard Shoch voted against them.
Hunting season at the AOAA is defined in the policy as the period of time, excluding Sundays or other days prohibited by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, between the beginning of black bear archery season (typically mid-November) and the end of late deer archery season (typically the end of January) as determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission calendar.
However, in the event the beginning or ending dates set for those seasons are significantly altered, the planning department shall be authorized to alter the beginning and ending dates of the AOAA hunting season.
During the AOAA hunting season, hunters and fishermen will not be required to request permission, obtain permission slips or execute waivers of liability as required by the policy for other activities.
All other activities on the AOAA during the AOAA hunting season will be prohibited, except for Sundays or other days when hunting is prohibited.
Handicapped and disabled hunters who have obtained proper clearances and permission from the game commission and/or state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to hunt with a motorized or assistance vehicle will be permitted to hunt on the land during the AOAA hunting season.