LOCK HAVEN - With an anticipated 30,000 tri-axle truckloads of earth being hauled out of the rural Westport area over the next two years during an acid mine drainage reclamation project, there is really only one conclusion in the minds of state and Clinton County officials: The widely popular Whiskey Springs ATV Trail must be closed.
A day after announcing the awarding of a $12 million-plus contract to abate acid mine drainage from old coal mines on some 100 acres that includes sections of the trail, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced - with county commissioners' support - that the trail will close three weeks early, effective Sunday - and will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
"Basically, we're closing the riding season three weeks early, and we'll be figuring out what we want to do in the future," Sproul District Forester Doug D'Amore said.
The photo shows the “Huling Branch Kill Zone” – severe acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines that flows over the area and has killed vegetation in its path on the way to Huling Branch. A two-year reclamation project funded by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources should significantly reduce or eliminate the mine drainage at the site and more like it, officials said.
Photos Courtesy of Amy Wolfe/Trout Unlimited
"The trail would have been officially closed on Sept. 29, and we have to determine if the future holds a complete or partial closing of the trail in future seasons. We haven't made a final decision on that," D'Amore said.
Echoing many of the sentiments expressed by the commissioners earlier Thursday at the board's weekly meeting, D'Amore described the situation as "a short-term problem with a long-term gain for the environment."
" If you think about it, that's what we are in the business of doing here. We seek to improve the environment and the sustainability of the forest," he said.
"The issue isn't the number of ATV miles impacted," D'Amore added. "It's about the safety of the people getting to and from the site. What it boils down to is that pickup trucks hauling trailers, sharing the road with fully loaded tri-axles, do not a good mix make ... especially on narrow roads where somebody is going to have to pull off to allow the traffic to go by."
D'Amore said he's had some knowledge of the difficulties of dealing with emergency situations in that area, and taking steps to prevent just such an occurrence makes perfect sense.
"How much of a burden do you have to put on emergency responders," he asked, "especially when you have heavy truck traffic with limited access and a good distance from the nearest hospital or emergency room?
"From the time a telephone call is made to the time somebody arrives on site, you are already 20 minutes into the 'golden hour.' By the time you get them to the hospital, you're stretching an hour. We've had LifeFlight situations where it's taken three hours from arrival at the scene of an accident to arrival at a hospital," the forester said.
The state awarded L.R. Costanzo Construction Services Inc. of Scranton the contract to reclaim abandoned coal mines and to reconstruct ATV trails in Leidy and Noyes Township, above Westport in western Clinton County.
For the full article, check out today's print edition of the Lock Haven Express