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Partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to get more trails in Reading, PA

Partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to get more trails in Reading, PA

BAMBA receives an award for its excellence in partnership with the USACE

Posted: January 27, 2023
Three mountain bikers wearing a BAMBA jersey overlooking the Blue Marsh Lake
Photo courtesy of: BAMBA

The Berks Area Mountain Biking Association (BAMBA) recently received a national award for Excellence in Partnership from the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for its work on the Blue Marsh Flow Trail project in Berks County, Pennsylvania. 

The project, which created a sustainable trail system with high-quality trail connections, was selected from among 462 community projects nationwide. Criteria considered for the award included the almost $400,000 raised by BAMBA for the project, thousands of volunteer hours, an increase in trail users generated by the project, and overall community benefit.

Partnering with the USACE

How did IMBA Local Partner BAMBA start working with the Army Corps of Engineers?

The Blue Marsh Dam was completed in 1979 as a response to heavy flooding after Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The Dam was constructed on the Tulpehocken Creek, the largest tributary in the Schuylkill River watershed. USACE operates the Dam for flood damage reduction, low flow augmentation, water quality, and recreation. 

The Blue Marsh area sits on 6,200 acres of land and 1,148 acres of water. Facilities include picnic areas, a small beach, boat launches, and 36 miles of trails to accommodate all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. The multi-use loop trail encircles the lake and is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. The Blue Marsh Lake Trail is one of the prominent ride areas that comprise the Greater Reading Area Ride Center, recognized as a Bronze Level Ride Center by IMBA.

The USACE maintains the trails within their means, but 40 years of weather and wear has taken its toll on this trail system. The original trail design was somewhat elementary with lengthy loops, incorporating abandoned roads, following the terrain up steep climbs and fall lines, and through ground water pooling areas. An outdated trail design, erosion on the steep climbs, increased wet muddy segments, and lack of moderate loops has made this trail system less than desirable among hikers and bikers.

In 2019, BAMBA partnered with the local Army Corps Rangers and Dave King from DirtSculpt LLC to update and enhance the Blue Marsh Lake Trail system using state of the art trail building techniques and incorporating multiple moderate loops that originate at the existing access areas. The goal was to create an attractive, user-friendly outdoor recreation and fitness circuit for all skill levels, families, and adaptive riders, to encourage regular outdoor recreation and fitness.

BAMBA has become a vital and exemplary partner for the USACE. Since 2019, BAMBA has provided about $400,000 in funding and over $65,000 in volunteer services to rehabilitate and connect 1.71 miles of trail, create 10.6 miles of new enhanced trail experiences, build a developmental area for new riders, and an overall greater connection for the community of Berks County.

Excellence in Partnership

BAMBA received the Excellence in Partnership award from the USACE during a ceremony at the new Holl's trailhead parking lot on Highland road. The award ceremony was attended by regional managing officers of the Corps, and awarded by the Commanding Colonel. BAMBA surprised the rangers with the gift of two mountain bikes for patrolling the Blue Marsh property. After the festivities, BAMBA took several USACE officers for a ride on the new trails and they were very impressed by the trail quality and fun factor. 

 “BAMBA has become an unstoppable force on improving the trail network,” said Park Manager Scott Sunderland. “This has helped us meet the increasing demand on outdoor resources in the aftermath of a pandemic.”

According to the USACE, Blue Marsh Lake would not have been able to make the leaps and bounds in recreational development and sustainability without the help of BAMBA, its partners, and the surrounding community. Blue Marsh Lake is considered a gem in Berks County, and now will continue to shine brighter than before thanks to the help provided by partners like BAMBA.


Interested in partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers on trail projects? The USACE actively seeks organizations to help them in delivering USACE’s mission of securing our Nation, energizing our economy, and reducing disaster risk. Learn more about working with the USACE here.

Looking to get started on trail planning and development? Check out A Guide to Trail Planning.

About the author
Headshot of Bob McClennan

Bob McClennan learned to mountain bike back in the late 80's at Blue Marsh Lake on a rigid steel bike with toe clips, cantilevers and thumb shifters. After suffering from three decades of racing addiction on road and mountain bikes, and more recently cyclocross and gravel, he has recovered and…

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