A group of mountain bike enthusiasts received the Cambria Somerset Authority’s blessing to build a half-mile-long trail on the Quemahoning Reservoir in the spring.
If the Laurel Highlands Off-Road Biking Association can secure help from an international mountain biking group, their small bike trail would serve as a hands-on training ground for volunteers to learn how to build top quality trails in the region, and help advance plans to put a 12-mile trail loop around the reservoir later in the year, authority and biking group members said Thursday.
“The idea is that this demonstration trail will simplify the permit process required to build the larger trail,” CSA manager Earl Waddell said.
Project supporters maintain that their construction methods will not cause erosion on the area circling the reservoir.
The demonstration project carries a simplified permit process compared with the trail loop, which requires state Department of Environmental Protection and Somerset Conservation District approvals, Waddell said.
Permit applications are being sent to the regulatory agencies for approval, while the trail bike group has drawn up plans to develop mountain bike trails similar to ones at Raystown Lake that draw thousands annually, said association member Clark Fisher, a professional consultant who mapped out the Raystown trails.
If the project is approved, they would use methods called bench-cutting to cut sideways into the pathway. It is a more expensive way to build trails, but one Fisher has drastically minimizes erosion and annual maintenance needs.
Group members and volunteers would put the bench-cutting process to work on the demo trail to show its reliability, assuming approval comes from the International Mountain Biking Association to schedule the training, he said.
“The big thing is going to be getting people interested in coming to help,” Fisher said.
He is hopeful those who want to learn to build the demo trail would return to build their envisioned Que loop.
The CSA has been eyeing bike trails on the 2,800-acre CSA reservoir property for years.
Waddell said the demo trail would be built next to additional hiking trails near Plank Road.
Among other moves at the CSA’s meeting on Thursday, the board approved a nearly $1 million general fund budget plan for 2014 that would include 21/2-percent raises for their staff of four employees, including one part-time worker.
Following a 2012 year where dam and pipeline-related repairs led to cash worries, board president Jim Greco said the CSA is “right on track” with its planned expenses through October.
“We’re doing well,” he said.
David Hurst covers the CSA for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.