DCNR giving financial boost to private ATV trails

By Tom Venesky - [email protected]
After the snow storm hit Wilkes-Barre, the vehicle of choice was an ATV for some people. 3/14/17. Sean McKeag | Times Leader -

Brian Rich Jr. sees plenty of ATV riders from Luzerne County come to enjoy the trails on his company’s property in Schuylkill and Northumberland counties.

Rich also see riders come from other places, such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland and Ohio.

The vast draw, Rich said, is proof of just how popular off-roading has become. Thanks to a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, ATV riders will have even more places to ride.

Last week, DCNR issued nearly $600,000 in grants for improvements to private ATV and snowmobile trails at five sites across the state.

Rich, who is the general manager of Famous Reading Outdoors, which currently has 20,000 acres of land open to riding, said the $225,000 grant his company received will be used for a master plan and development of more trails.

“Our parent company, Reading Anthracite, owns 40,000 acres and we’re looking how to utilize it as an attraction for off-road users,” he said.

Administered through DCNR, grants can fund up to 100 percent of a project. DCNR can award grants two times each year to municipalities and profit and nonprofit organizations for ATV- and snowmobile-related projects on county, municipal, nonprofit, state and private lands.

All ATVs and snowmobiles in Pennsylvania must be registered and titled with DCNR’s Snowmobile/ATV Section. Registration money is used to provide program administration funding; maintain trails in DCNR’s parks and forests; and provide grants to profit and nonprofit organizations for developing additional riding opportunities in the commonwealth.

Statewide ATV registrations approach 185,000; snowmobiles, 34,000.

Terry Brady, DCNR spokesman, said one of the goals of the grants is to promote riding opportunities on private lands in addition to the 245 miles of trails established on state forest property.

“Trail construction on state forest land is dictated by resource, such as avoiding sensitive areas like wetlands and streams. We’re pretty much maxed out,” Brady said. “These grants are a viable way of giving ATV riders alternative places to ride.”

Brady added that any development encouraged by the grants would be regulated by local and state ordinances and agencies. Professional designers, architects, engineers are required.

Rich said riders at his facility must pay a membership fee — an annual permit costs $175 — and with so much property available and 650 miles of trails established, it’s hard to be at full capacity.

“It’s really growing but we need the funding to bring in that outside expertise on how best to utilize this property,” Rich said. “Sixty percent of the property is reclaimed mine land, so ATV trails represent a good use for the land.”

In addition, Rich hopes the ATV park will serve as an economic stimulator for the local economy, which he said has lagged since the days of coal mining.

“I really think it has potential for an economy based on tourism,” he said.

After the snow storm hit Wilkes-Barre, the vehicle of choice was an ATV for some people. 3/14/17. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_TTL031517Snow7CMYK-1.jpgAfter the snow storm hit Wilkes-Barre, the vehicle of choice was an ATV for some people. 3/14/17. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

Other grant opportunities …

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also has $1 million in PENNVEST-funded grants available to assist landowners with planting trees along streams in Pennsylvania to improve water quality.

Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of streamside buffers by 2025.

“Simply put, we can improve the water quality in our rivers and streams by planting trees along them to slow down runoff and filter sediments and fertilizers we apply to the land,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

To expand on the existing streamside buffer options for landowners, DCNR has a multi-functional buffer option that is eligible for these grant dollars to provide greater flexibility in landowner eligibility, buffer designs, widths, plant species and allows planting of some income-producing crops in the buffer zone. For the PENNVEST-funded grants multi-functional buffers are preferred but not required.

“PENNVEST is pleased to be a part of this effort to expand multi-use buffers, as we believe it is imperative that we develop a sustainable funding source to support the streamside buffer goal for 2025 and beyond,” said PENNVEST Executive Director Brion Johnson.

The DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program grant round is currently open and will close Sept. 28.

Individual landowners; businesses; non-profit organizations; local governments; and educational institutions are all eligible for the buffer grants, but must be prequalified. Information about how to prequalify is available online on the DCNR grant portal.

Forest buffers along stream banks provide critical barriers between polluting landscapes and receiving waterways. Properly planted and maintained, streamside tree and shrub plantings filter the runoff of sediments and the fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; improve water quality; reduce flooding; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat.

Interested applicants should visit DCNR’s website to apply.

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky