The Jakes Rocks area of the Allegheny National Forest isn't the only place in Warren County with mountain bike trail development.
With construction of the proposed Jakes Rocks Epic Mountain Bicycling Trail still years and millions of dollars away, a local effort with a smaller budget is under way at the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area (HRCDA).
"We've got some new trail construction going on up there as well as maintenance of the trails that are already there," Greg Kolenda, district technician for the Warren County Conservation District, said.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Blazing a trail
Josh Ellis (left) and Aaron Spencer cut a new section of mountain bicycling trail in the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area in Glade Township.
The construction is in the northeastern portion of the 350-acre property in a stand of pine trees.
"The budget is essentially zero," Kolenda said. "I've got some time invested into it. Other than that it's just volunteers."
The conservation district is working with Josh Ellis and Aaron Spencer, owners of Allegheny Cyclery in Warren. "I approached Josh and that's where it got going," Kolenda said. "If you're interested and have manpower, maybe we could work something out."
Ellis and Spencer, along with about 10 other volunteers, have been working when the weather cooperates since August.
The current plan calls for adding almost a mile to the existing trails in the area. However, Ellis and Spencer have come up with other ideas as they have been working. "It would be awesome to see a trail serpentine through that field," Ellis said. "The view is awesome."
The field in question is currently overgrown and anyone wishing to pass through would have to do some serious "bushwhacking," he said.
Existing trails on the HRCDA pass Hatch Run, Simmons Run, a wetlands area, and the HRCDA pond.
Some of the trails are in less than desirable locations. One particular low-lying trail frequently floods. Instead of providing continuing maintenance on that trail, the Conservation District is building new. "We're creating a new trail to replace an older trail that had a lot of maintenance issues," Kolenda said. "People are still welcome to hike the old portion if they want."
The zero-budget construction process is not highly sophisticated. There is no material being brought in. "You flag out a line through the woods, then you would start removing debris, brush, and undergrowth," Kolenda said. "The new portion of trail doesn't require any bridges."
There is some labor involved. In places where the trail travels perpendicular to the slope, the workers have to 'bench' the trail - essentially create a terrace by digging into the slope several inches and flattening space for the trail.
The rocky soil makes that work more difficult, but it will be a good thing in the long-run. "One thing that's good about building up here is how rocky it is," Ellis said. "It will drain well. It's going to be really sustainable."
Spencer said he expects much of the cycling traffic to flow in one direction. While the trail is not particularly technical, it is steep at some points. Riding in a generally clockwise pattern takes riders to the top more easily than going the other way.
The riders are looking forward to the presence of the Jakes Rocks Epic Trail System, but the current work is something they can take advantage of more regularly.
"The big prompt for this is to have some trails close to town to ride," Ellis said.
"We have some trails that are virtually flat, right along Hatch Run," Kolenda said. "Some of the trails would be a little more challenging. They're all scenic. I wouldn't consider anything extreme."
The work will "make the property more user-friendly," he said. "In combination with the new trails and our existing trails, they offer excellent views of the valley, new areas to explore on the Hatch Run Conservation Demonstration Area."
In addition to hiking and biking, hunting and fishing are permitted on the property. Kolenda asked that people fishing in the pond practice catch-and-release.
"We've got benches here and there, some picnic tables as well," Kolenda said. "There's a pavilion at the parking lot."