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Antis to remove coal pile

Nearly $1M grant will help township develop trail

Antis Township has received an approximately $1 million grant from the state to help it develop a proposed trail from Bellwood to Juniata.

The Abandoned Mine Lands funding will go toward removal of a 22-acre wooded ridge of coal refuse between Becker and Lower Riggles Gap roads, leveling the area for potential use as recreational field space, construction of 1.6 miles of trail between Becker and Lower Riggles Gap and possibly construction of a parking lot, according to a news release from the Department of Environmental Protection and Township Manager Lucas Martsolf.

“This is going to bring so much” to the township, Supervisor Janet Lantz said Wednesday, after the Wolf administration announced the award — part of

$25 million allocated for projects that include backfilling of the Ingleside Northeast highwall and reclamation of the Vintondale Pile, both in Cambria County.

Antis recently awarded a bid for removal of the low-quality timber on the ridge, work that should begin in a month or two, Martsolf said.

DEP will take control of the rest of the project, according to Martsolf and township road foreman Randy Showalter.

The department will bid out the work of removing the coal refuse, which co-gen operators can burn to supplement run-of-the-mine coal to create energy, according to Showalter.

The work of removing the coal will involve separating it with screens from the dirt and rock that is part of the pile, according to Martsolf and Showalter.

The dirt and rock will remain on site and eventually be covered with silt from the soon-to-begin dredging of the pond at Lakemont Park, which is being done under supervision of the Intergovernmental Stormwater Committee to comply with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System — or MS4 — guidelines designed to reduce the amount of sediment flowing into area streams.

The Lakemont silt will provide a fertile base for grass to grow on the Antis site and save the cost of hauling in topsoil, officials have said.

The BTU content of the coal waste on the Antis site is low enough that the prospect of removing it and transporting it to a co-gen plant needed to be subsidized — although officials had initially hoped the project would pay for itself.

The coal pile removal project will take two years, Martsolf predicted.

When it’s finished, there will be a “flat plain, with maybe two tiers” that generally will stand about 7 feet higher than the surrounding ground — high enough to be out of the floodplain of the nearby Little Juniata River, Showalter said.

The work will create “a $2 million asset” without expenditure of local tax funds, Showalter said.

Work on Phase 1 of the overall trail project, which will take the trail from downtown Bellwood to Becker Road, will be bid out in the spring, Martsolf said.

Township workers have been building a small stretch of trail on the south side of Becker meanwhile.

The township will need to be alert for grant opportunities to develop the trail on the south side of Lower Riggles Gap Road, a section that can eventually connect with North Fourth Avenue in Juniata, Martsolf said.

The township already owns the ground on which that section of the trail would run, he said.

The township also should be alert for grant opportunities to take the trail north from Bellwood toward Tipton, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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