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Old 01-29-2007, 08:38 AM   #1
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Benefit Ride - Paragon Adventure Park

Off-road devotees riding to rescue
Patrons of Paragon Adventure Park aiding owner in battle with landlord.
By STEVE MOCARSKY smocarsky@timesleader.com
HAZLE TWP – Off-road-vehicle enthusiasts are doing whatever they can to help keep the East Coast’s premiere off-road vehicle park open, including having a benefit ride next Sunday.

Paragon Adventure Park, which sprawls across a few thousand acres in Hazle Township in Luzerne County and East Union and Kline townships in Schuylkill County, is in danger of closing because of a lease dispute between park owner Kyle Knosp and land owner PCA Corp.

Court papers filed by PCA Corp. and Gladstone Partners L.P. state that Knosp breached his 25-year lease in several ways. Knosp says he’s being bullied into giving up the lease so PCA can sell about 2,500 acres of the land to Gladstone for big bucks – about $22.5 million.

The lease is the only thing that stands in the way of the land deal, and Knosp says he’s not giving up without a fight.

Knosp said he’s overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he’s received from park patrons, who organized a benefit ride with a raffle to attract participants.

Lee Raider, 48, of Berwick, got the ball rolling with a post to the park’s online forum suggesting a benefit to help pay legal expenses Knosp and his wife, Stephanie, incur in their court dispute.

“Paragon has sponsored many fundraisers and benefit rides in the past, always donating some or all of the gate fees to that benefit. So I figured ‘what goes around, comes around’ is a good idea. Kyle and Stephanie have always been quick to help others, now here is our chance to help them,” Raider said.

Raider, a seven-year patron of the park, said he made the initial post to the forum with the benefit idea, and “everyone else jumped in and took it upon themselves to be a part of it.”

He said he received $1,000 in merchandise donations from off-road vehicle and ATV companies within 24 hours. He estimates he has received offers of about $5,000 in merchandise to raffle in the last week, and he expects more merchandise to be donated for the raffle this week.

Raider said anyone who participates in the ride will receive a raffle ticket, and they can receive more tickets if they make additional donations to a legal fund. Donations so far range from winches and gift certificates to custom-made bumpers, wheels, tires, full axels and suspension products.

“There’s a little bit of everything. I e-mailed and called several 4x4 and SUV-related vendors. I haven’t had any of them decline. Some called me asking why I didn’t call them. All the Jeep and SUV clubs on the East Coast are getting involved. People and companies I never heard of are donating prizes,” Raider said.

The Times Leader received a few dozen e-mails or phone calls from off-road enthusiasts who travel to the park several times a year from as far away as New Hampshire, Canada and Ohio, and fear they will have no quality East Coast site to ride their off-highway vehicles legally.

“The possible closing would put a huge dent in available places to recreate in this manner in the Northeast. … There are simply no parks that allow that type of large-scale recreation four-wheel-drive vehicles or dirt motorcycles,” said Dan Spalinger, 32, of Hudson, N.H.

Spalinger acknowledged that some small trails exist in some states. “But the amount of miles and acres of terrain open in Paragon is probably greater than almost all the open land combined in all those states. It’s just a huge loss for that industry in the Northeast,” he said.

Spalinger said closing Paragon could push enthusiasts to ride their vehicles illegally on public or private land where riding is not allowed.

He and other riders point out the devastating effect a park closure would have on the local economy.

Knosp estimates that park patrons spend an average of $100 locally on each visit. With approximately 18,000 visitors in 2005, he believes park patrons infused about $1.8 million into the local economy, and that’s not including the park’s profits. He estimates the park pulled in close to a half-million dollars that year.

Knosp said the lease problem has promoters, who normally schedule 20 to 25 special events there each year, fretting about the park closing and having to find a new venue.

IF YOU GO

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What: Ride to benefit Kyle and Stephanie Knosp

Where: Paragon Adventure Park, Hazle Township

When: Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday

What else: A raffle will be held after all vehicles are lined up and before the riding begins. Go to www.paragonap.com for more information.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 459-2005.


M O R E N E W S F R O M
• Hudson, NH
• Luzerne County, PA
• Discuss Luzerne County, PA

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