Nov. 20—NEWPORT TWP. — After more than two years of research, analysis and public feedback, Earth Conservancy (EC) recently released a draft of its feasibility study for an all-terrain vehicle (OHV) amusement park in Newport Township.
The study evaluated more than 11,000 acres of land in the Lower South Valley, much of which was mined, to determine suitability, public interest, potential ownership structure and economic impact.
The most important provisions include:
—The identification of the Newport Township study area as highly suitable for motorized recreation by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR).
—Wide support for the project, with a focus on all high value recreational resources (e.g. hunting, hiking, climbing) within the study area. According to public respondents and stakeholders, an OHV facility could provide a safe and legal riding arena, environmental protection and economic benefits for the region.
— Based on current conditions, recommending that the state, a private company or a non-profit organization present the most appropriate structures for the ownership and operation of an OHV facility.
—In operation, an OHV park would support nearly 14 jobs and generate over $1 million in total revenue in the first year.
Terry Ostrowski, PE – President/CEO of Earth Conservancy, said he strongly believes the report demonstrates that such a park would not only benefit local OHV enthusiasts with a legal place to ride, but also if they could be full potential to support economic growth in the Lower South Valley and surrounding areas.
“While more work is needed, this report provides a roadmap for prospective owners that demonstrates the interest and commercial viability of an OHV facility in this area,” Ostrowski said. “Our next step is to find interested parties who have the knowledge and experience to make this facility a reality.”
An open house was held at Luzerne County Community College last week to introduce the project to all interested parties.
The story goes on
The full draft report is available for download at — www.earthconservancy.org. A printed copy is available upon request. All comments on the draft report must be submitted by November 23 to allow the study team to review them before the study is completed.
Jim Laird, RLA|Principal, LAIRD, said Earth Conservancy’s vision for a large-scale adventure park could provide the region with a much-needed opportunity, one that can enable motorized recreation in particular.
Laird said: “This study has identified three critical factors – first, that the area has the appropriate landscape for motorized recreation. Second, that there are committed supporters. And third, that funding is currently available. Motorized recreation is a big part of it. The demand for motorized trail systems is high. However, places to ride are badly needed. The Newport Township study area has great potential to capitalize on the multi-billion dollar motorized leisure industry. “
The aims of the study were:
—Assess the suitability of the area for motorized recreation and examine the possibilities and
—Assessment of market trends and motorized leisure needs.
—Understanding stakeholders’ desires, expectations and concerns.
—Development of a phased implementation plan with estimated costs.
— Examine potential ownership and management models.
Funding for the Newport Township OHV feasibility study was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and EC.
Recommended next steps
Ostrowski said based on current information about land use, market trends, community input and the success of similar facilities in Pennsylvania, an OHV equestrian facility in Newport Township is appropriate, feasible and sustainable. He said the project would provide a vast area of green space and create opportunities for conservation, abandoned mine reclamation, outdoor recreation and economic development.
Ostrowski said the biggest obstacles to advancing the project are ownership and zoning.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.