Wheeling the Dirt

local off-road cycling group gets active with local trails

Carrie Weiss, photos by Marisa Wojcik |

BUMPS AHEAD. Mountain bike trails like this one in Lowes Creek County Park are refurbished by the Chippewa Off-Road Bike Association.

    Chippewa Off-Road Bike Association is an organization of cyclists whose purpose is actually recycling. From old “deer trails” to rough walking paths, CORBA refurbishes single-track mountain biking trails. Their newest venture will begin in mid-May, as they reconstruct a quarter-mile mountain bike loop in Altoona.

Since CORBA improved the Lowes Creek trails in 2005, it seems cycling use of Centennial Park – a wooded area that spans Otter Creek in Altoona – has waned. “Before CORBA built the trail system in Lowes Creek Park,” says CORBA project leader Dave Olson, “Centennial Park was the best place to mountain bike in the area.” This is probably because the trails have never been upgraded. Altoona resident and Centennial stroller Brendan Pratt reinforces the observation. “There are not a lot of people that use it now, other than the people that live around it.”

Dave Olson and other CORBA volunteers plan to improve several existing trails in Altoona’s Centennial Park. These improvements are enacted according to the International Mountain Bike Association standards. On any trail improvement, CORBA marks a trail route, then uses an inclinometer to gauge the trail’s steepness. The organization’s members generally volunteer their labor to remove brush and other obstacles, as well as “bench work,” or flattening of the trail by moving soil. “The first thing that mountain bikers crave and seek in the trails is … single-track, which is anywhere from 18 to 25 inches wide,” said CORBA secretary/treasurer Laura Plummer. After the initial grunt work, CORBA diligently maintains the trails.

At Centennial, some of the “obstacles” will remain. Logs, tree roots, and the sandy soil furnished by the creek bed provide challenging terrain that attracts cyclists, Plummer explained.

CORBA hopes to complete one section of the trail by the end of May. Altoona recreational director Debra Goldbach asserted that the park trails will continue to be open to cyclists and pedestrians alike, free of charge.

    For more info, or to get involved, visit