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Jim Thorpe Mayor: Glen Onoko caught up in political battle

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Published June 07. 2019 01:01PM


Jim Thorpe’s mayor says the governor’s recent stop at Glen Onoko Falls to promote a proposed tax on the state’s natural gas industry was disrespectful to first responders.

Meanwhile, council members are wondering if it is safe to keep sending firefighters up for rescues on a trail that the Pennsylvania Game Commission says is unsafe for hikers.

Mayor Michael Sofranko didn’t hold back his criticism for Gov. Tom Wolf during Thursday night’s workshop meeting. He said Wolf is ‘holding firefighters’ lives hostage by saying he will only fix the falls if the $4.5 billion Restore Pennsylvania legislation is passed.

“Our firemen, our police, our first responders, in this county are far too important than to lay their lives on a tax of the (Marcellus) shale. If you want to fight your battles, fight them in Harrisburg,” he said.

Councilman John McGuire used the word blackmail to describe the governor’s statement that he would fix the falls if legislators pass his proposed tax on the state’s natural gas industry.

Council agreed that the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s decision to close the trail hasn’t eliminated the need for local firefighters to climb the Glen for rescues.

Councilman Jay Miller, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter in the borough, described the most recent rescue at the Glen, which occurred on Sunday. He said 30 firefighters from five different departments spent about three hours on the call. The firefighters had to use ropes to safely remove a woman who had been injured on the trail.

“The whole area up there continues to erode and continues to be more dangerous. It’s very dangerous for a first responder up there,” he said.

Miller said that the woman they rescued ended up refusing treatment from the first responders, despite someone in her party calling 911 and requesting a rescue.

McGuire said he’s frustrated that the fire department has been unable to send rescued people a bill for the expenses involved with reaching them on the falls trail.

“I think if they’re doing it illegally, we should sue them,” McGuire said.

Council President Greg Strubinger wondered if it is safe for firefighters to continue to respond to the Glen, considering the state has said it is unsafe for hikers.

“We know this is dangerous for our volunteers. Shouldn’t we be saying: we don’t want you to go into these calls?” Strubinger said.

Miller said that firefighters volunteer to respond to calls — there’s no requirement to go. And he said the first responders still have a good attitude about responding, for now.

“I’m here to say it is not our job to continually go to repetitive calls, and that’s what these are. These are repetitive, ignorant stupidity calls,” Miller said.

Miller stated he is worried that a firefighter will be hurt while responding to a rescue at the Glen.

Miller said he will continue to respond to the calls. He said it would be a different story if the game commission wasn’t citing the hikers.

He said he was told by the Game Commission that they would cite the victim in last week’s rescue for hiking the closed trail.

Miller ultimately urged the state to take responsibility for the trail. He pointed out that the trail itself is located in Lehigh Township, but Jim Thorpe Fire Department responds to the calls because they are the closest to the Glen Onoko parking area.

He said when he heard the governor was visiting Glen Onoko, he expected him to have a solution to the problem.

Mayor Sofranko said he has heard promises that taxpayers would receive relief from casino gambling, and a tax on gasoline to fund roads.

“The reality is the firefighters, first responders, and everyone who wants to hike there — the governor is holding those lives hostage to a tax,” Sofranko said. “Don’t start playing those political games with people’s lives.”


The trail is not unsafe for Hikers. The trail is unsafe for tourists out for a stroll wearing their Birkenstock sandals. The other problem is Jim Thorpe's counterproductive cocky talk to state officials. Like the BS a councilman was slinging when he "put the state on notice". It was for a sign to warn motorists exceeding the speed limit approaching the new bridge (total BS because I filmed it.) The safety problem is actually Jim Thorpe's mismanagement or not managing the traffic that backs up around that curve. Vehicles traveling overspeed and unmanaged tourist traffic is what causes the safety problem there. It is Jim Thorpe's strolling tourists not hikers or the stewards of state game land that "fall down and can't get up" on the trail. I'm not a fan of the wolf man. We (Native Pennsylvania Sportsmen) don't need squat from the wolf man. We fund the commission purchasing hunting and fishing license's. The result is well managed game lands and a serious surplus of cash ( It would be practical to bill the borough to fix the trail and force them to come up with a plan to rescue their flip flop wearing tourists that fall down and cant get up. Or maybe they (JT) should buy it now since it cant be used by sportsman. It's Jim Thorpe's marketing of State game land attracting flip flop wearing tourists to use a resource paid for by Native Pennsylvania Sportsman to be used for sport not a casual weekend stroll in birkenstock sandals. Own the problems you create. Pay the damages you are responsible for. Take credit for the good things you do. Stop kicking the can down the road. I know the borough didn't trash the trail overnight I also know that Glenn Onoko trail is not the only local resource suffering because of over use by tourists. Identify and fix problems now or fix them later at a much greater cost. (you should make a list and get started)
Hey Sofranko... if the Gov was a Republican you'd be kissing his butt.
BTW, it was Lace Curtain Irish Corbett who raised the gas tax which was "misdirected" to PSP retirement fund. Sounds to me like you're statements are politically motivated, Mikey. How about paying up to complete the footbridge instead of waving your trump 2020 flag during every meeting.
The party requiring rescue should, without question, be sent the bill. It wouldn’t stop people from trying to hike the falls, but it’d be a pretty simple deterrent.
As Spooky stated, the trail is not dangerous for people who know their limitations and how to hike. But there are many who have no clue how gravity and friction work, and who use the wrong footwear, techniques and no care whatsoever. They are interested in selfies and chattering away. I hiked the trail twice the last month it was open, and had no problem at all safely hiking to the top and back. I saw very poor behavior on the part of many people with no clue.
“I’m here to say it is not our job to continually go to repetitive calls, and that’s what these are. These are repetitive, ignorant stupidity calls."
What makes calls to Glen Onoko any different than other emergency calls? People have been warned that it is a dangerous trail. People have been warned for years that drunk driving is dangerous, texting while driving is dangerous, open flame appliances in the home are are dangerous, absence of smoke detectors in the home is dangerous... All those situations put rescuers at personal risk, and many of them could be labelled stupid repetitive calls. Yet our first responders valiantly respond to all without hesitation and with little regard to personal risk. Instead of politicizing the situation, take time to express appreciation for those who respond and support all efforts to make their tasks safer and easier.

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