'Soft opening' for AOAA source of confusion; give it time
New businesses sometimes get started with what's called a "soft opening."
It means a store, restaurant, manufacturing plant or other operation is open for business, but with limited product or production, with plans to slowly ramp up to 100 percent over a given period of time.
The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) might well represent the mother of all soft openings.
Events large and small have been conducted on the county-owned AOAA land for more than a year. But it was just last week that the Northumberland County commissioners passed a resolution to create the authority that will govern the park, and the authority's members are yet to be named.
Also, a decision made by commissioners early on in this process was that no local tax money would go toward the AOAA project. Therefore, the county needs state and federal government sources and private funding, and finding it takes time.
And, the county planning department - all three employees - have taken on the bulk of the AOAA planning amid many other duties, and so the process drags on.
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Meanwhile, county residents for the most part continue to use the 6,500 acres that make up the AOAA land as they always have - for hunting, off-road riding, hiking, partying and more. But the county has slowly begun to enact new policies and controls that will be needed once the park is formally operating.
Such policies - including requiring waivers for use of the land - are part of the reason for the lawsuit filed Monday by Shamokin resident David Kaleta. While county officials may have overreacted to past conflicts in banning Kaleta from the property, they are also trying to gain some measure of control of the land, and that is necessary.
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As this long and awkward transition period continues, there will be more contradictions and more questions for county officials. At the same time, people must realize that, while this is public land, there is a need for policies, rules and regulations, no different than what exists for other parks, forests, waterways or similar properties owned by municipal, state or federal entities.
Completing the transition from soft opening to 100 percent operation of the AOAA is likely to take another year or more. It's a work in progress, but it should be a benefit to all in the end.