July 28, 2010
ATV park gets support
200 attend meeting to offer opinions
By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SHAMOKIN — More than 200 people came to Shamokin Area High School on Tuesday night to take part in a special meeting by the Northumberland Planning Commission to gather opinions about the proposed Off Highway Recreation Park.
John Burkle, of Paschek Associates, the lead consultant of the plan, told the audience that the meeting was being held to gain information, not answer questions.
"I want everyone to understand that we don't have the answers right now," he said. "We need to gain all the information we can get and go from there."
Northumberland County owns about 6,500 acres of coal land and wants to build the park to create a safe area for ATV riders and to stop illegal ATV use.
Patrick Mack, Northumberland County planning director, said he is aware of the good and bad of the project and knows the cost will be significant.
"I hear the complaints that we would be charging people for what they already do now," he said. "But it is not about that, it is about making a safe and better environment for people."
Mack said the county has about $250,000 for the project and has applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for a $3.6 million grant.
"We want to build a world-class park and that will take some money," Mack said.
The crowd was shown a Power Point slide presentation on some of the ideas for the park, including riders being able to use their off-road motorcycles, 4x4s, snowmobiles and ATVs, as well as nonmotorized recreational activities, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, hunting and camping.
"We want to have something for everyone here," Burkle said. "With all of these things, people will be coming to the area and will be spending money for food, lodging and other things."
Most folks agreed the park is a good idea. However, some wanted to be able to have input in the process.
"The main reason we are here tonight is to get the public involved and get as many ideas as we can get in order to get this right," Burkle said.
Northumberland County Commissioners Vinnie Clausi and Kurt Masser said they thought the park was a good idea.
"I like to see progress in the county," Clausi said. "As a commissioner, we have an obligation to help out with everything we can, but we want to listen to the citizens first."
"This is something that can breathe economic life in an area that needs it," Masser said.
Mark and Jen Welliver, of Mifflinville, were excited about the possibility of spending time at the park with their 12-year-old son, Bryan, who couldn't wait to jump on his ATV at the park.
"It gives families an opportunity to do recreational activities together," Mark Welliver said. "I also think this will bring money to the area, and again, just be good for families."
Rich Kashnoski, of Coal Township, was one of the few people who disagreed.
"With the noise, pollution and everything else that will go on, people can forget about sitting on their porches and grilling," he said. "And as far as making money, I don't see how they can because I know when I go camping I buy all my food at home and take it with us."
The planning commission will schedule another meeting in early fall.