EPCAMR has been recently selected as one out of hundreds of applications from across the country who submitted to the POLARIS Trails Grant Program to receive $10,000 to support our regional work and technical assistance to coalfield communities throughout Northeastern and NorthCentral PA. Grants will not be paid in full until receipt of a Final Summary Report. $1000 will be held until the final report has been received. The first of its kind in the ATV industry, the T.R.A.I.L.S. Grant Program was launched in January 2006 for ATV clubs, associations and grassroots groups. ATV riders and the trails they use are the lifeblood of the sport and Polaris Industries Inc. aimed to create a program to help. The T.R.A.I.L.S. program makes funds available to national, state and local organizations in the United States to ensure the future of ATV riding.
T.R.A.I.L.S. stands for:
- T = Trail Development
- R = Responsible Riding
- A = Access
- I = Initiatives
- L = Lobbying
- S = Safety
Polaris’s grant program encompasses two main objectives – promoting safe and responsible riding, and preserving access. Funds can be used by organizations for trail development and maintenance projects, safety and education initiatives, and other projects to increase and maintain land access.
EPCAMR will be assessing the safety and future potential trail development on abandoned mine lands throughout Northeastern and NorthCentral PA in partnership with the Earth Conservancy , PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR), PA Game Commission (PGC), and other private landowners including County Governments that we work with on reclaiming abandoned mine sites remediating streams impacted by polluted mine water and the creation of trails and open space areas. EPCAMR will be assessing and surveying the potential hazards around the development maintenance and construction of trails on these abandoned mine sites to increase the public’s knowledge of them potential for future access and to justify the need for State or Federal funding to improve the health and safety aspects on many of these sites, including the identification of illegal dump sites and recommendations for future cleanup. EPCAMR will also be better suited to access areas where we currently are monitoring abandoned mine discharges at tunnel locations, shafts, slopes, breaches, and other surface water impoundments that are contributing abandoned mine drainage (AMD) into the surrounding watersheds and communities that we serve.
EPCAMR has been in need of an ATV to access these sites for years to get our field monitoring equipment maintenance equipment, spray paint for the various trails, supplies, cameras, GPS units, and water monitoring equipment that often times have to be backpacked in and out of these sites on the back’s of Staff that can way upwards of 30-40 pounds. The funds would be used to purchase an ATV or ATVs with enough space to transport a few staff and the necessary equipment to conduct all of our field work. It will also support other outreach and education materials that will be developed by the EPCAMR Staff over the course of the year, including posters, trail maps, additional partnerships with private landowners to discuss access issues, coordination of illegal dump site cleanups on abandoned mine lands, and the health and safety factors present on these sites that EPCAMR is all too familiar with. EPCAMR in the past has been an active member of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Outdoor Recreational Committee and is very familiar with issues surrounding ATVs public access for ATV users and other forms of recreational trail user groups. EPCAMR also has a long-standing relationship with many coal land operators, coal companies, large landowners, and other regional non-profit conservancy groups throughout Northeastern and NorthCentral PA.
The benefits of this project will be that more miles of trails, streams impacted by AMD, and abandoned mine lands can be surveyed and assessed more quickly and with the proper equipment being able to be brought in and out of the sites to perform the necessary site surveys for public health and safety. No organization is doing this right now in Northeastern PA on abandoned mine lands that we are aware of and EPCAMR has a 20 year history of working on abandoned mine land reclamation trail projects, stream restoration projects, community outreach, and environmental education programs in our coalfield communities. We have existing relationships with Off-Road Vehicle Clubs 4X4 Clubs and Off-Road Magazines that can help us promote our work and the Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S. program. Currently our regional non-profit lacks the transportation to get to these sites to properly assess and survey them other than hiking and walking in to them for miles with heavy backpacks and numerous trips due to the inability to get in and out with everything we need in one trip, therefore creating additional time that is necessary to double back and walk in and out of these areas over and over again.
EPCAMR will list the Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S. Grant Program on our website (epcamr.org), FaceBook (EPCAMR), and on our PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Community Facebook Group page. EPCAMR will be incorporating the Polaris logo with permission into our trail maps and other reports that are likely to be produced. EPCAMR will shoot our own HD video and create a poster of us performing maintenance surveys and taking photographs of scenic vistas, AMD, illegal dumping sites, before and after photos of anticipated cleanups, potential hazards, and vertical mine openings or water-filled stripping pits often located on these properties to increase the education outreach and awareness that is necessary to promote safety on these trails, haul roads, and abandoned railroad grades.
EPCAMR Executive Director, Robert E. Hughes, who wrote the grant application on a lead from EPCAMR’s Community Development Coordinator Volunteer, Frank Knorek, who did some initial homework on potential sources of funding such as this application program that would be able to assist EPCAMR in fulfilling it’s mission. “I appreciate Frank’s due diligence and investigative abilities to find us the source of grant funds that were out there.” Most of the time, it’s the wee hours in the morning, when I have the time that is completely uninterrupted where I can focus on writing down what EPCAMR needs that will at the same time fulfill the needs of the grantors. This grant was no different. Earlier in the Summer, on June 29th, I sat down that evening and within a few hours had plugged in to the online application why we needed this grant for these types of vehicles and field monitoring equipment. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call two days ago from Jennifer Kuzma, Polaris Industries Inc.-Marketing & Event Coordinator from Medina, Minnesota. These funds will be put to good use.”