LEWISBURG – The second day of a local recreation area show ended on Thursday afternoon with a debriefing.
Nathan Reigner, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) director for outdoor recreation, listened at the CommUnity Zone/Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP) headquarters as recreation stakeholders debated the challenges.
Among those attending were representatives of the LDP, a member of Lewisburg Borough Council and the executive director of the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, organizer of the two-day tour.
Bina Bilenky Trahan, a member of Lewisburg Borough Council and a longtime cycling advocate, noted that the region is deeply rooted in its motoring traditions. Parking, at least in Lewisburg, remains the biggest challenge. The concept of cycling as a means of transport and recreation is alien to some motorists.
LDP Executive Director Ellen Ruby and Executive Assistant Lynn Ragusea said their organization has identified a need for more staff as it has taken on more events.
Motorized recreation was treated equally earlier in the day when Reigner and participants took an off-road vehicle ride on the trails of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
The off-road trail system in and around Coal Township, Northumberland County, opened in 2014 when publicly owned former mining land was repurposed for recreational use.
They were joined by DCNR Motorized Recreation Specialist Troy Withers, who recalled that the area had long been ideal for motorized outdoor recreation. Early opposition to the AOAA came from drivers who inexplicably preferred driving illegally on dangerous terrain to being exposed to outside influences.
That has largely changed as illegal riding has largely disappeared from the picture today and other benefits have come with land reclamation.
“They have an American chestnut restoration project that was funded by the American Chestnut Foundation,” Withers said. “Those are the things most people don’t hear about.”
Withers acknowledged that there is still opposition to the AOAA, but the tide has largely turned amid the quality projects now underway. He noted that while the lands were public many years ago, they were still off-limits to renegade horsemen.
Reigner said the state has recognized the popularity and benefits of motorized recreation.
“What we’ve realized is that through community partnerships, rider groups working together, motorized recreation can bring families together,” Reigner said. “It’s a great way to see a landscape. It can be a way of connecting a place like AOAA to a community like Shamokin.”
Collaboration between government agencies and private groups has also been recognized as a source of AOAA’s success.
The group also visited Carbon Run, a river once thought to be “dead” due to mining runoff. It has since been restored and now houses aquatic life. The Whaleback, a hilly section of the trail system, was also visited.