NEWPORT TOWNSHIP OHV STUDY
A three-year study evaluating the land, public interest, and economics for an OHV riding area in Newport Township.
In 2019, Earth Conservancy conducted a study of its land holdings in Newport Township. The takeaway: very little of the acreage was suitable for traditional development. What was also apparent were that the woods, rocky terrain, steep slopes, views of the Susquehanna, and even the remaining mine-scarred lands created a prime area for conservation and potential recreational use.
In 2020, Earth Conservancy was awarded a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PADCNR) to formally assess some 10,000 acres in the area. The study will pick up where Earth Conservancy’s 2005 ATV Feasibility Study left off, reevaluating partners and demand, conceptualizing a park layout, and, importantly, ascertaining management options and financial viability.
January 3, 2023 | Final report approved by PADCNR and released to public.
November 15, 2022 | EC and LARID held a public open house at Luzerne County Community College to discuss the final draft of the OHV study, before its submission to PADCNR. In addition to having copies of the report available, stations were set up around the room highlighting key findings. Special thanks to The Institute for covering survey results and economic impacts! Approximately 35 people were in attendance – a surprise due to the heavy snowfall that night. We appreciate the feedback given. The draft report is available in the “Public Comment & Meeting” section.
August 4, 2021 | EC and LARID held a second public meeting in-person at Luzerne County Community College to provide updates on survey findings and review progress on its analysis of the 10,000 acres. LAIRD explained that through the survey, stakeholder interviews, and exploration of trails, their conception of the project had shifted, moving from only an OHV park to an outdoor adventure area with a variety of activities. Early conceptual maps outlined some existent trails and scenic highlights; however, Jim Laird emphasized that with the space available, there were multiple options for trail locations – especially in order to avoid areas of concern (e.g., environmental, residential). Over 85 individuals attended the meeting, with nearly 30 people viewing it online. Links to view the public meeting are available in the “Public Comment & Meeting” section. Responses to unaswered questions will be posted shortly.
June 16, 2021 | Terry Ostrowski began the third steering committee meeting with news that an additional 1,400 acres will be included in the feasibility study, located to the south of the Penobscot Ridge Mountain Biking Trail. Following that, Jim Laird instigated several discussions based on the study’s progress: 1.) Concentration on the 2,500 acres owned by EC, focusing on essential/early park requirements like access, parking, a registration/information area, trailheads, and other amenities; 2.) Emphasis on the “Adventure Park” idea to fully utilize the area’s exceptional resources for all types of outdoor recreation; 3.) Understanding of best practices for trail design to incorporate multiple levels of challenge, but also to consider safety and respect for residents (e.g., hours of operation, patrols, special events, emergency access); and 4.) Further investigation of the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) and its levels of liability for landowners, as well as trail development on adjacent state forest lands. Jim brought up a final topic about a trail feasibility study underway in central Pennsylvania, covering six counties. He emphasized a growing interest for not only riding areas, but also for connections between those parks. Much like thru-hiking/biking trails, such links support large-scale adventure tourism. In closing, Terry announced the next public meeting would be in-person, tentatively scheduled for August 4, 2021.
April 28, 2021 | Steering committee holds its second meeting at Newport Township Recreation Area, with 21 members attending. After a welcome from Earth Conservancy’s President/CEO, Terry Ostrowski, study team lead Jim Laird provided updates regarding the study. The emphasis was on ownership models, including government/authority-led, private, nonprofit, or public/private partnership. The study team has had ongoing conversations with existent parks representing these models. Additionally, Megan Stachowiak from The Institute reviewed data from the public survey, having received approximately 3,000 unique responses. One big takeaway – riders have money to spend and will pay for quality riding experiences. There was also high interest in a recreational area that featured a variety of outdoor activities.
February 11, 2021 | EC and project consultant LAIRD LA conducted their first public meeting to discuss the OHV feasibility study, with over 50 people in attendance, and another 50 viewing the meeting via livestream. In addition to providing an overview of the project, team members reviewed preliminary results from the ongoing public survey and took questions and comments from participants. Links to view the public meeting are available in the “Public Comment & Meeting” section. Responses to unaswered questions will be posted shortly.
January 18, 2021 | Public comment period begins. In addition to releasing a public Citizen Survey, EC has announced a public meeting to discuss the OHV project will be held on Thursday, February 11, 2021, from 6:00 – 8:00pm.
September 17, 2020 | Steering committee holds first meeting at Newport Township Recreation Area, with 20 people in attendance. Terry Ostrowski, Earth Conservancy’s President/CEO, welcomed the group and gave an overview of the project. He then handed the meeting over to Jim Laird of Laird Landscape Architecture, who introduced the rest of the planning team. Jim engaged the group, asking participants to introduce themselves, the group the represented, and their perspectives on the OHV study – including their concerns. The feedback provided great insight into opportunities and constraints for riders in the region. There was definite excitement for what “could be” – in terms not only of motorized recreation, but also economic development and other outdoor recreation pursuits. The committee planned to meet again in the spring, following a planned public meeting. Attendees at the meeting included representatives from PADCNR, Newport Township, Luzerne County, the Nanticoke Conservation Club, and the offices of Senator John Yudichak and Representative Gerald Mullery.
July 10, 2020 | Laird Landscape Architecture engaged as consultant for feasibility study. Study team includes WAR Landscape Architecture and The Institute.
April 17, 2020 | Request for Proposals issued, due May 18, 2020.
December 23, 2019 | Earth Conservancy awarded All-Terrain Vehicle grant by PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources; fully executed April 16, 2020.
PUBLIC COMMENT & MEETINGS
Public Meeting #3 | November 15, 2022, 5:00pm (LCCC)
• Draft Feasibility Study Report
Public Meeting #1 | February 11, 2021, 6:00pm (Virtual)
• 02.11.21 – Meeting PowerPoint Presentation (includes link to the WNEP-16 story on the City of Shamokin & AOAA).
• 02.11.21 – Meeting Recording
• 02.11.21 – Meeting Minutes
• 02.11.21 – Written Responses to Q&A
• 02.11.21 – Virtual Meeting Guidelines
Public Survey | January – March 2021
• Available online or as a printable form
We encourage the public to continue conversations with us about the project. If you have comments or questions, please contact EC by emailing [email protected].
Christine Dettore | PA DCNR
Jeremy Blank | Newport Township Police Department
Era Gould | Paragon Adventure Park
Gary Gronkowski | Nanticoke Conservation Club
Joe Hillan | Newport Township
Matt Jones | Luzerne County Planning Commission
Nick Lylo | PA DCNR, Bureau of Forestry
Ken Pollock, Jr. | Newport Aggregate
Ron Papciak | Resident
Wico Van Genderen | Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce
Ted Wampole | Luzerne County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ed Whitebread | Conyngham Township
$62,000 – PA DCNR, C2P2 / ATV Restricted Mgmt. Account
Newport Township Master Plan (Earth Conservancy, 2019)
ATV Feasibility Study Report (Earth Conservancy, 2005)
Pennsylvania All-Terrain Vehicle Area Suitability Study (PADCNR, 2019)
DCNR ATV Trail Development and Management Policy (PADCNR, 2020)