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January 10, 2010

No snowmobiles: Despite contribution from registration fees, Rock Run recreation area closed for winter

PATTON — Rock Run recreation area near Patton, described as the premier off-road facility in the east and funded with state snowmobile and ATV registration fees, is missing the snowmobile part.

The new facility closed Nov. 1 and will not reopen until April.

But organizers say they are working on snowmobiling plans, and a meeting is scheduled Thursday to discuss possible programs.

The recreation area, open since 2007, but not year-round, is the project of state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, who wanted to convert the 6,000-acre mining site to an outdoor fun spot – while at the same time treating acid mine runoff.

Rock Run opened nearly four years ago, but never for snowmobiles, said Dee Columbus, director of the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority. The authority first took title to the property so it could be developed with state funds.

“The Rock Run board runs the park now, and they decide on its uses,” she said when asked why the almost-new facility is closed for six months.

“Yes, the original $2 million funding came from the state’s ATV/snowmobile fund, but there was not enough use to justify snowmobiles,” she said.

That state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, builds the fund through registration fees of $20 every two years for ATVs and snowmobiles.

“The fund does not preclude one use or the other,” said Terry Brady, a state DCNR administrator. “With Rock Run, the money was steered for the primary use of ATVs, but that said, so many of these grants in the past have been for parking lots for snowmobiles, or the like,” he said.

“We’re caught between apples and oranges, and this is one of the best snowmobiling years we’ve had in a while,” Brady said.

Rock Run board member Andy Kaza said the facility has never been open for snowmobiles.

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