Raystown debuts mountain bike skills park; first of its kind on federal lands

By: Cynthia Mitchell
Published Sept. 30, 2016

Dualie, Gnarl, Shred, Grinder, Grunt, Berm, and Bonk.   

The average person has probably never heard most of these terms.  Are they part of a secret code? A tongue twister, perhaps? Generation-Z slang? 

Chances are, if you chat with someone that is part of the local community surrounding Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, these terms need no explanation.  That’s because the Raystown region knows mountain bikes.

That passion for mountain biking brought more than 50 guests together on Sept. 14, 2016, for the grand opening of the Raystown Mountain Bike Skills Park, located directly across from the visitor center on Seven Points Road. The park occupies two acres of berms, natural and wooden features, small vertical drops, and other skill features.  It is the newest addition to the Allegrippis Trail System, recognized by Singletracks.com as one of the best mountain biking trails in the country.

Pictured, from left: Nick Krupa, operations project manager, Raystown Lake; Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander,  Baltimore District; Rob Rabena, president, Friends of Raystown Lake; Jeff Thomas, commissioner, Huntingdon County, on behalf of Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission; Matt Price, executive director, Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau; Evan Gross, president, Raystown Mountain Biking Association; Katie Kinka, program manager for Community & Economic Development, Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission. (U.S. Army photo by David Gray)

“The skills park is an addition or a supplement to the Allegrippis Trails,” said Allen Gwinn, park ranger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. The Corps constructed Raystown Lake and owns and operates it for flood-risk management, recreation, and other uses. “It was built with three lines: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, so that all riders can come to Raystown and use the features at the skills park to safely prepare themselves to ride in the more remote sections of the Allegrippis Trail.”

Designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the Allegrippis is a 30-mile stacked-loop trail system that offers sloping, moderate to rigorous inclines, armored stream crossings, and wildlife viewing opportunities among 4,000 acres of forest, meadow and lake.  The trail system has quickly gained national exposure since its debut in May 2009, and is currently recognized as a “Flagship Riding Area“ by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)

The Raystown Mountain Bike Skills Park, located on Raystown Lake Project in Hesston, Pa. (U.S. Army photo by David Gray)

Gwinn stressed the importance of the skills park location, which provides close proximity to services such as vehicle parking, bathrooms, clean drinking water, and, if needed, emergency vehicle access.

“Putting the skills park right here at the visitor center, having it right as you come in, it really exposes a lot of kids and visitors to biking,” said Evan Gross, president, Raystown Mountain Biking Association.  “I think the park will be an impetus for a lot of young riders that may have otherwise not gotten into mountain biking to get out there and see what’s in the woods, and ride the Allegrippis.”

Evan Gross, president, Raystown Mountain Biking Association. (U.S. Army photo by David Gray)

The completion of the skills park provides the opportunity to upgrade the Allegrippis’ IMBA designation from Flagship to Ride Center™.  This designation represents the association’s model trail recognition for large-scale mountain biking facilities that offer “something for every rider.”  

Prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander, Baltimore District, addressed partners in attendance who helped make the skills park a reality. 

“Today’s ceremony is a celebration not only for the skills park, it is a testament to the power of collaboration and partnerships,” said Chamberlayne.  “The Corps doesn’t do anything by itself.  Volunteers and partners like the ones present today identified the location for the park, secured funding, and initiated construction.“ 

Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander, Baltimore District, rides the beginner line at the Raystown Mountain Bike Skills Park. (U.S. Army photo by David Gray)

In November 2015, 12 organizations signed a challenge partnership agreement with the Corps that subsequently led to the construction of the skills park.  Signatories include Friends of Raystown Lake; Raystown Mountain Biking Association; Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau; Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission; Appalachian Regional Commission; Nittany Mountain Bikers Association; Seven Mountain Conservation Corps; Waddle Fabrication; DirtSculpt Bike and Trail Development; Dunklebarger Carpentry; and Rothrock Outfitters.

The agreement is part of the Corps’ Handshake Partnership Program that provides financial incentive for Corps facilities that engage with their local communities to complete projects that will benefit public lands.   

“None of this would be possible without our local and regional partners who share our passion for upkeep and improvement of the Raystown Lake region,” said Chamberlayne.  “We are proud to work side-by-side with all of these partners.  Together, we accomplish more than we ever could individually.”

Raystown Lake is the largest lake located entirely in Pennsylvania and offers 8,300 surface acres of clear water surrounded by 21,000 acres of forested mountain slopes. Raystown is a multi-purpose lake constructed and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood risk management, recreation and natural resource opportunities, and hydropower. For more information on Raystown Lake, visit the natural resources program link at http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/DamsRecreation/Raystown.aspx or call 814-658-3405.