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ATVs vs Wildlife: Why Can’t We Have Both on Northumberland County Land?
By David F. Kaleta
August 21, 2010
In this letter Habitat for Wildlife outlines reasons why motorized and non-motorized recreation doesn't mix and offers a solution in the form of a compromise. We also question if a 6,000 acre OHV/ATV park goes through, would we just be trading local dollars for out of town dollars?
Please read and share this letter but most importantly, act.
I agree that having some sort of OHV/ATV/Recreation Park in the local Shamokin/Mt Carmel, PA area will increase cash flow into the area. By how much is anyone's guess? Officials point to the Rock Run OHV Park in western PA and to the Hatfield McCoy trails in West Virginia and the increase in tourist dollars they are seeing there.
Some questions beg to be asked though.
First, will another park reduce the bottom line of all three parks and thus change projections for a park here? And what about possible future parks in the mid-Atlantic area?
Second, will a 6,000 acre OHV park impact the number of non-motorized tourists visiting the area now; the birders, mountain bikers, hikers and hunters? Again, I don't have a dollar amount that these out-of-town people bring in to the local economy, but I have empirical evidence that they do come and do spend money. Many former residents schedule their vacations and home-town visits to coincide with the hunting season. Friends and acquaintances of mine travel from Lewisburg, Bloomsburg, York, and as far away as Philadelphia to hunt and run bird dogs in this area. I have a friend from Harrisburg whose wife's family lives in Shamokin. He loves to visit the "in-laws" and the opportunity to hunt ruffed grouse while in town. Is their money any less valuable because they recreate on foot? In fact these same people have told me they would recreate here more often, but are discouraged by the illegal dumping throughout the area. Many bring dogs but are afraid the dogs will be injured by dangerous debris. Intuitively, cleaning up the trash and enforcing dumping laws could attract more tourists.
Third, if a 6,000 acre OHV park is built, how many locals will go out of the area to do the same recreation they now do here and take their dollars elsewhere? Are we trading local dollars for out-of-town dollars? Will hunters and hikers travel to Potter, Tioga, Sullivan, or Bradford Counties and spend their money there?
Fourth, is there not intrinsic value in places that are undisturbed, quiet, green, and open for a walk? A place to take your grandchildren and pets and not worry about off-road vehicle dangers, a place you can sit and watch the sun set, or not only see song birds but also hear them sing. An undisturbed place where wildlife can nest and raise their young. A place where a pond can be a pond and not a mud bog, where black berries and huckleberries can grow without being covered with dust, where fish can swim and spawn without siltation and off-road vehicular traffic. Can we provide a place where future generations can come, see, hear and taste all these things? I'm sure the Susquehanna Valley Visitors Bureau could put a value on these things.
Let me reiterate from an earlier letter, I do support a broad-based recreation park; a park for motorized and non-motorized sports and recreation. The issue that needs to be addressed is the heterogeneous nature of these activities. It is not possible to have non-fragmented nesting, breeding or other wildlife habitat if dissected by OHV/ATV trails. Wildlife requires year-round habitat, not habitat that will be closed to OHV/ATV traffic only during hunting season. Due to the potential speed obtained by OHV/ATVs, it is not safe to let children or dogs run or ride a horse in the same vicinity. Clean ponds and streams are unlikely to occur if vehicles are traversing through them.
The Habitat for Wildlife proposal is a compromise between the two valuable recreation forms. We propose separate areas be established for both. It's a win-win proposal. The proposal places the hub of the OHV/ATV Park in the far western edge of Coal Township, westward into eastern Zerbe Township. It would be located away from the populated areas of Coal Township and Trevorton; adding a buffer between the dust/noise and town. The non-motorized tracts would be closer to populated areas so as to allow access by foot from town. The areas outlined for non-motorized use are also the most contiguous wildlife habitat tracts of the 6,000 acres.
Habitat for Wildlife's proposal can be seen online at http://www.habitat4wildlife.org
If you think this compromise is the best thing for the area and the 6,000 acres of County owned land, let your elected officials know, not just one or two all of them. Contact information is available in your phone book and at www.habitat4wildlife.org
David Kaleta, president
Habitat for Wildlife Inc