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Pedaling a plan

Mountain bike trail planned for AWA watershed

Troy McMullen cuts a log in the area of the proposed mountain bike trail. Mirror photo by Nate Powles

A group of mountain bike enthusiasts is planning to create a 5-mile, figure-8 trail on 800 wooded acres of Altoona Water Authority ground above the Horseshoe Curve.

The project is getting support from the authority, the Central Blair Recreation Commission, the city and the state Game Commission.

Blair County is the only county in the region that lacks a formal mountain biking trail, said Troy McMullen, one of three group members who attended a recent meeting of the Rec Commission, which agreed to become the sponsoring agency to promote the trail and to possibly seek grant funding.

The proposed trail, which could be used for running and hiking but not for ATVs, would be on the right side of Veterans Memorial Highway heading up from the Curve, with the south end of the figure 8 just past the steepest section, according to a map provided by the group.

There is a pull-off that can accommodate about 12 cars just past that steep section, according to Rob Crossman, a city employee and one of the members of the mountain bike group.

Officials representing the city Public Works Department recently obtained permission to build the trail from the Water Authority, whose watershed ground is patrolled by the Game Commission, under a partnership agreement so the land can be used for recreation, according to a letter from authority Executive Director Mark Perry to the Rec Commission.

The Game Commission is willing to include the proposed trail system in its patrol responsibilities, Perry wrote.

The Game Commission has offered to post signs to keep ATV riders away, according to the group.

“We believe this project will be a tremendous benefit to our community,” Perry wrote. “Not only for the health and wellness of the public, but also as a tourism attraction that may benefit area businesses.”

The ground is in Logan Township.

“Sounds like a great idea,” said Rec Commission member Ed Frontino, a Logan Township supervisor. “No downside.”

The trail would be built by volunteers, Crossman said.

With a good effort, construction could be done in five or 10 days, said Nate Kissell, the city’s public works director, who attended the Rec Commission meeting.

There isn’t much need to move soil or cut trees, and there isn’t much undergrowth, Kissell said.

“Ninety-nine percent of it will be to rake leaves,” he said.

Mostly, the trees are far enough apart that riders can “pick their way through” already, Kissell said.

The markings are in place, and the trail is ready to be built, the group said.

Eventually, there could be “edits” to the base loop, Crossman said.

The lower loop of the figure 8 will be easier to ride on, McMullen said.

There will be rolling elevation changes, with grades generally not more than 6 percent, he said.

While the trail will be on mountainside ground, the direction of the trail will be largely sideways to mitigate the steepness and prevent erosion, McMullen said.

“We don’t want to make the trail so difficult that only” experts could handle it, he said.

“The idea is to start small,” McMullen said. “Show them this can work.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038

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