Commissioners stop timbering project after concerned citizens voice opposition

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SUNBURY — Northumberland County commissioners on Tuesday canceled a timbering project of county-owned land in Zerbe Township after complaints from citizens.

At Tuesday’s public meeting, Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano told a group of 15 township residents that the potential timbering on 493 acres of land by the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) would not move forward, prompting a round of applause from those attending. The proposal involved two 60-acres areas of land overseeing Trevorton Road in Zerbe Township above Sunoco and Dollar General.

“You don’t have to worry,” said Schiccatano. “Nothing will be done on the site of Trevorton Road Mountain. I promise that.”

Certified forester Nathan Kort, owner of Kort Forestry, was working on a proposal for the AOAA Authority. The county gave the AOAA permission 18 months ago to manage any timbering projects on AOAA land.

The AOAA — which caters to off-road motorized vehicles, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts — is located along Route 125 on more than 8,000 acres of forest and reclaimed coal land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The land is mostly owned by Northumberland County with some leased from private landowners and managed by the AOAA Authority.

The AOAA nor the county would have benefited financially from the timbering. Any proceeds would have come back to the county, Zerbe Township and Line Mountain School District, similar to how coal royalty is divided among the governing bodies.

The commissioners said they were not aware of this specific timbering project, but worked to stop it when they started getting calls about it over the last month.

“We apologize for not knowing,” said Commissioner Kymberley Best. “As soon as we found out about it, we did something about it.”

Prior to the announcement, Patty Zablosky, the spokesperson of the Citizens United To Stop the Timbering Project in Zerbe Township, presented a petition to the commissioners with 222 signatures on it.

“We the taxpayers have a right to know and should have a voice to express opposition or concerns on any projects put forth that directly impacts our quality of life,” she said.

Zablosky expressed concerns about increased water runoff onto properties that are already having issues with water damage; the strain on sewer plant due to the water runoff; increased deterioration of roads; traffic safety; and impact to wildlife.

Commissioner Joe Klebon agreed, noting they have enough problems to worry about with their water issues.

“I sure wouldn’t want to be supportive of anything like this that would complicate your situation out there,” said Klebon.

Zablosky said the citizens want a legal document banning timbering projects from residential areas. The commissioners said they would look into the legality of such a document because future commissioners might not agree with the decision announced on Tuesday.

“I appreciate anything you can do to make this never happen to us again in our lives,” said resident Jeff Marquette. “We don’t deserve that as taxpayers.”

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