Archive for the ‘High School League’ Category

Castaic Trails and Puente Hills Park Plans Approved

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
Park and Rec Staff give their report

Park and Rec Staff give their report

October 25, 2016 was a great day for trails, open space and bike parks in Los Angeles County.  Some time ago, we learned that the Puente Hills Landfill Park Master Plan would be on today’s County Board of Supervisors agenda.  Last week, we were notified that the Castaic Multiuse Trail Master Plan would be on the same agenda.


Kevin from SCV Trail Users speaks to support the Castaic plan.

Both these plans include Bike Skills Parks, as proposed by CORBA to the County in 2011.  It’s been a long process with much input from local residents, trail users, mountain bikers and environmental and social justice organizations. With these bike skills parks appearing on their respective master plans, which will be incorporated into the County General Plan, we have confirmed a future Los Angeles that will include bike skills parks.

The Puente Hills plan includes two bike skills area, one in Phase One, and a second in Phase two. The Castaic plan identifies three potential bike skills park sites. The plans do not include specific bike park designs. These designs will take some time, and much community involvement. The onus will be on us, the mountain biking community, to follow through and remain engaged in the design process, and ultimately, to help raise funds and build these facilities.

These planning documents are intended to guide long-term development over multiple decades, as funding and other opportunities become available. Fully realized, they will provide many miles of multi-use trails, trailhead staging areas, and other amenities. The Puente Hills plan includes multiple recreational amenities, including public performance spaces, a zip line, bike skills park, dog park, and balances that with habitat restoration and native landscaping. There is something for everyone.

Four of us spoke in favor of the Castaic plan, including CORBA, the SoCal High School Cycling League and SCV Trail Users, while one local resident expressed concerns that a proposed trail in the plan traverses her property. Supvervisor Antonovich asked the park planning staff how the plan addresses and protects private property rights and received assurances that easements or property acquisitions will only take place from willing sellers.


Over 30 people came to speak on the Puente Hills plan, rallied by our friends at Bike SGV, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and CORBA.  It was obvious to the County that there is tremendous community support for the plan, so it wasn’t necessary for all 30 to speak. Wes Reutman from Bike SGV, spoke on behalf of the group.  Support also came from the Wilderness Society and the Trust for Public Land.

We want to express our sincere thanks to both the County Department of Parks and Recreation, and the County Supervisors for supporting the development of these plans.  We also extend our appreciation to Alta Planning for their great work on engaging the Santa Clarita Valley community in the development of the Castaic Plan, and Withers & Sandgren Landscape Architecture firm who were enlisted as the prime consultant on the Puente Hills plan. Both the Castaic and Puente Hills planning processes typified the type of extensive community outreach and engagement that are necessary to develop viable community-driven plans that reflect the desires and address the concerns of the community and trail and park users.

Of special note is the long-standing support for trails and open spaces exhibited by Supervisor Antonovich, who will term out at the end of this year. His legacy includes the Santa Susana Trails Master Plan, and the Castaic Multiuse Trail Master Plan. As an equestrian and a champion of multi-use trails, Supervisor Antonovich has arguable had a greater impact on trails in Los Angeles County than any other single elected official in the area. In fact, 30 years ago, I served as assistant race director of the Olive View Challenge, a running, cycling, mountain biking and BMX event raising funds for Olive View hospital. Supervisor Antonovich was an ardent supporter of our nacent mountain biking race then (the first ever sanctioned mountain bike race on County and National Forest lands). He’s been a champion of trails since, and throughout his career in County government.

While a great step forward, there is still a lot of work to be done before we’ll be shaping dirt into pump tracks, jumps, and skills features at either Castaic or Puente Hills. We hope to begin the design phase for Castaic as early as next year. Puente Hills needs a few more years for the landfill to settle, and phase one will likely begin in late 2017 through 2019.

Ken Burton Trail Restoration – Day 14

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Saturday, March 19, 2016, was a perfect day to do trailwork. There was moisture in the ground from the week’s rain, temperatures were cool, and the crew were able to ride to and from the work site via the Gabrielino trail. A half-dozen or so volunteers were already on their way to the work site when this group photo was taken.

Some crew members were already on their way to the work site

Some crew members were already on their way to the work site

While several volunteers rode in via the Gabrielino, some opted to ride up to Brown Mountain and enjoy the fruits of their labor on the way down Ken Burton trail to the work site. It was the first time we had been able to ride all the way down to the 16th switchback without interruption. The volunteers who rode down Ken Burton trail were all in agreement that the efforts of the group over the previous five months had been well-worth the experience.

We were fortunate enough to have several SoCal High school league student-athletes and coaches join us for the day, along with members of the mountain bike forum out of Santa Clarita.

This was a heavily damaged section

This was a heavily damaged section

With the major brush work completed, the crew split into groups, concentrated on re-cutting the bench along a heavily damaged section of the trail, restoring outslope, and removing remaining roots and stubs from the tread.

Another crew worked diligently to rebuild the 16th switchback, using rock extracted from the tread to build an outside retaining wall on top of the old wire basket retaining structure that had failed.  By day’s end, the switchback was completely rebuilt. We were fortunate to have the expert assistance of Hans from Bellfree Contractors on this major effort.

Rebuilding Switchback 16

Rebuilding Switchback 16

By day’s end the crew had completed tread work almost all the way down to the 17th switchback, restoring one of the more heavily damaged sections of the trail so far.

So far, 81 individual volunteers have put in 1,408 total person-hours of work on this project in 14 scheduled work days, plus another 12 prep days.  This is an impressive effort to restore this much-loved trail that was built by mountain bikers from the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association in the early 90s.

20160319-Ken Burton Trailwork Progress

The next scheduled group work day on Ken Burton will be with Mount Wilson Bicycling Association on April 17, though there will be additional prep days before then. Contact if you’re interested in helping prep before then (likely April 10).

CORBA’s Steve Messer Receives NICA Award

Monday, February 29th, 2016
All the 2015 NICA Award Recipients. Photo by Karl Nielsen

2015 NICA Award Recipients. Top row: Todd Wells, Hal Miller, Scott Armstrong, Austin McInerny, Jeremy Call, Kade Brantington, Hannah Heydinger, Robert Parks, Mark LaPaglia, and Mike Perry. Bottom Row: Lucas Euser, Liam Ruff, Steve Messer, Nash Dory, Preston Bagley-Gurtner, Esmée DeBarssi, Zoë Mae Dunn, Kathy Parks, Robert Kertesz, Gary Fisher and Lauren Duensing. Photo credit: Karl Nielsen.

On January 30, 2016, Steve Messer was the honored recipient of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s Community Impact Award, sponsored by QBP.  The award came as a complete surprise to CORBA’s President, and was equally unexpected by SoCal League director Matt Gunnell, with whom Steve and CORBA have work since the league’s infancy to support High School Mountain Biking and getting more kids on bikes.

Read about all of NICA’s 2015 Award Recipients at

Sixteen outstanding participants in high school cycling leagues across the U.S. were honored at the 2015 National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Awards, held at Clif Bar & Company Headquarters, in Emeryville, California.

NICA presented awards in ten categories to individuals and organizations considered to be the most outstanding student-athletes, dedicated coaches, and the most supportive volunteers and sponsors to have helped advance the high school mountain biking movement over the past year.  Photos of the entire event by by Karl Nielsen are available, and a short recap video will be posted soon.

Matt presenting the award

Matt Gunnell introduces Steve Messer

Steve has been involved since a young riding buddy introduced him to high school mountain biking as the League was beginning its second season in 2010. The SoCal league’s first season had proved the NorCal model could be replicated, and led to the formation of NICA. Steve has been involved in getting student-athletes and teams out doing trailwork, doing major Station Fire restoration projects, helping secure venues for high school league races, and calling on High School teams to use their voice in advocacy efforts.

Steve was introduced by Matt Gunnell, director of the SoCal High School Cycling League, with whom Steve has worked, strategized, and even presented at the IMBA World Summit on the synergies between high school mountain biking and advocacy.

Matt’s introduction to Steve:

I am very honored to present the Quality Bicycle Products Community Impact Award to Steve Messer. Reading from the nomination submission for this award, I quote…”Steve does it all. He’s an inspiration. He’s indefatigable. He’s designed and built courses, mentored coaches and students, helped with administration, helped launch new teams, established partnerships between teams and IMBA chapters to do trail work, and more. This is just a sketch of his contributions. His commitment to the SoCal League is immense, and he still makes time for CORBA/IMBA advocacy leadership as well as general road bike advocacy. With 1000 Steves, mountain bike opportunities would be improved a thousand times over. Sadly, there’s only one of him.” It is with great pleasure that I present this award to the one and only Steve Messer!

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen

Steve gives acceptance speech. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Steve’s Acceptance Speech:

What a privilege to be here at the Clif Bar headquarters surrounded by so many people dedicated to getting more kids on bikes.

Thank you Matt for that introduction, and thank you so much NICA for this unexpected honor. There are many people I have to thank, especially the teams, coaches and volunteers of the SoCal League, and NICA for thier leadership. I know there were other equally-deserving nominees whose work is just as impactful and important as what I’ve been trying to accomplish. I’m just one of many, many mountain biking advocates around the country, striving to preserve and create great mountain biking experiences for our future generations.

Just five months after 76 SoCal League student-athletes raced the inaugural SoCal finals in 2009, and NICA was just getting going, our local National Forest and most of our favorite trails were destroyed by the Station Fire and subsequent El Niño storms. We had this burgeoning high school sport, and most of the trails I had ridden for more than 25 years were suddenly closed or gone. The Mountain biking community was devastated. My motivation to restore the trails, and some forward-thinking coaches who were already doing trailwork, grew into a serendipitous partnership between CORBA and local high school teams that needed places to ride and train.

Working with a half-dozen or more local high school teams and their coaches, boy scout troops, and other groups, we collectively restored most of the front-country trails within three years of the fire. We’re still working on restoration projects, and continue to have student-athletes joining us. In fact we have two teams coming out next weekend for trailwork. Not coincidentally, the recipient for the Distinguished Alumni Award, Jeremy Call, will be bringing out his team next weekend. It’s a win-win for the teams, for our public lands and for all trail users.

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen

Matt Gunnell and Steve Messer. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Early on it became obvious to me that this was the next generation of land and trail stewards, advocates, and even land managers. Restoring trails and giving these student-athletes a place not only to ride and train, but to develop a deep connection to the mountains and the Forest as I have been fortunate enough to experience, is its own reward. The most gratifying aspect of all this is that I’m seeing the passion I have for trails and our public lands instilled in so many young riders.

Having an increased presence of well-behaved, responsible trail users that NICA’s leagues are producing is really helping foster more responsible riding. The equestrian community in our area certainly has noticed  Slomo Bro is helping spread the message that responsible riding is a form of advocacy.

Within the high school mountain biking family, I’ve made some of my closest friends, my strongest supporters and allies, and feel a true community spirit. I’m awed to feel this trail love spreading throughout this community. Seeing the types of partnerships CORBA began to develop, now built upon and expanded as the nationwide Teen Trail Corps Initiative with IMBA and REI gives me great confidence in the future of our sport, our trails and the places we ride.

Again, I’m truly honored by this recognition, especially since it’s for something I just love doing. Thank you NICA, the SoCal League, QBP for sponsoring this award, all the volunteers who have helped me along the way, my spouse who is so supportive of what I’m doing, and everyone who has contributed to this incredible journey.”

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen

SoCal was well represented: Jeremy Call, Steve Messer, Kathy Parks, Robert Parks, and Scott Armstrong. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Southern California was well represented at the Awards, with Scott Armstrong, the SoCal League’s Chief Course Marshall receiving the Clif Bar Volunteer Service Award, Coach Jeremy Call from Simi Composite team receiving the Camelbak Distinguished Alumni Award (and then bringing his team out for CORBA trailwork a week later!), and coaches Robert and Kathy Parks of the Temescal Canyon High School receiving the SRAM Coach of the Year award.

NICA leagues are now up and running in 19 states, with more coming online each year. There are now over 10,000 student-athletes participating in middle school and high school mountain biking races around the country. To learn more, visit, or

President’s Message: 2015 – A Year in Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

2015 has been one of the most active in CORBA’s history. There has been so much happening in our local mountains, in our sport, in our public lands, in the political landscape, and in bicycle advocacy in general. As always, CORBA has done its best to stay on top of the issues, to be leaders in the trail community, and to have a positive impact on our trails, our public lands, our community and our sport. Here’s a quick recap of what’s been happening this year, showing how your membership dollars and donations are being used to benefit all mountain bikers in the Los Angeles and Eastern Ventura Counties.


Puente Hills Landfill Meeting

Puente Hills Landfill Meeting

Much has happened this year on the mountain bike advocacy front. One of the biggest issues has been the start of the process to develop a Management Plan for our year-old San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The National Forest Foundation convened a Community Collaborative group to develop a broad base of support from a diverse range of stakeholders to help guide the Forest Service in its management of the Angeles National Forest and the SGMNM. CORBA has been involved from the start, in 2014 on the committee to establish the Collaborative, and this year as an active participant in the Collaborative. Forty-five diverse interests are represented, some of whom have traditionally found themselves at odds with our community. This has truly expanded our outreach and strengthened our place in the community.

We’re also continuing to work with Los Angeles County on several fronts: the Castaic Area Trail Master Plan, the Los Angeles County Trails Manual, the now-completed Santa Susana Mountains Trail Master plan, the LA County Park Needs assessment, the Altadena Crest Trail Restoration, the Puente Hills Landfill and bicycle access to trails in general.

This year we joined the Los Angeles Bike Park Collective. We have pending Bike Park proposals with Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, City of Glendale, and Thousand Oaks. Fillmore Bike Park opened this past Spring.

We’re closely monitoring the development of the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Master Plan, which is expected to come out in draft form in 2016. We saw the Rim of the Valley Study completed. Legislation was introduced to create a new National Recreation Area, and expand our new National Monument. We’ve worked with legislators on a pending Wilderness bill, to ensure that it has minimum impact on mountain biking. We’re continuing to work with the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society to ensure that their efforts to protect our public lands do not impact our ability to enjoy them.

This year new e-bike legislation was introduced. Early drafts could have been interpreted to allow electric mountain bikes on non-motorized trails. We worked to clarify that this does not makes e-bike legal on trails. We’ll be watching the e-bike debate closely as they become more popular.

There’s a pending application to build a hotel on the DeAnza Trailhead. CORBA took the lead on asking the City of Calabasas to do a full EIR.

Outside the area, we’re keeping an eye on wilderness proposals in the Sierra Nevada mountains and BLM land swap proposals in the San Jacinto Mountains, both with the potential to close trails to bikes.


Photos and Report on Backbone Trail Restoration on Oct 31, 2015

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

On Hallowe’en day, 16 CORBA volunteers along with a half dozen from the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council hiked up the Backbone Trail from Mulholland Hwy towards Etz Meloy for the third time in a year to cut back the overgrowing brush and improve the drainage.

IMG_1174It seems like all mountain bikers love this 2.5-mile long trail that twists and meanders, climbing gently and constantly up 600′ vertically.

I had hoped that we would have enough people to complete the brushing along its entire length, and the word is we succeeded – almost! There is still one very small gap that hasn’t had the brush cleared, but that section of the trail isn’t badly overgrown.

The CORBA crew focused on cutting back the brush, but the SMMTC crew also worked on the tread – cleaning and fixing the drains and spreading the slough across the trail to level it out. (Slough is the dirt that falls onto the inside edge of the trail from the hillside directly above, resulting in a narrowed trail because people don’t ride or hike on the uneven and loose slough.)

The CORBA volunteers included five students from Calabasas area high schools mountain biking teams, and two of their parents. The teams like their members to give back to the trail community. These kids did a great job helping to restore the trail, as did all the volunteers. Thanks for your help; everybody who uses the trail will appreciate your work when they don’t get scratched up from the brush that used to grow into it!

You can view photos of the work at our trailwork day photo gallery.

School Mountain Bike Teams Help Build a New Trail in Calabasas

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Riders, coaches and parents from Calabasas HS, AE Wright Middle School, Royal HS and other schools in Simi Valley spent six hours this past Saturday to build 300 yards of a new trail. This was half the length of a trail that was roughed in last year to bypass the swamp along the Historic Trail, part of the New Millennium Loop trail system in Calabasas.

The day started at 8:30 AM when the 27 volunteers, including a trail crew leader from each of CORBA and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, plus Pat McQuaid, fire crew chief for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (who owns the land we were working), listened to the safety talk, grabbed tools, then hiked the half mile to the work area. CORBA’s crew leader explained the work that was to be done, then demonstrated how to use the tools safely and effectively. The work was to widen the trail from the current 1-foot to 3-4 feet, ensuring a slight outslope so rain water would run off.

The tail end of the caterpillarThe teams started to work on the trail in groups of about 6, each with their own section of trail to complete before moving on to another section. Because of recent rains, the soil was soft and easy to dig into, but as we got a little deeper, we hit heavy, sticky clay that often stuck to the tools, making them much heavier to lift that they otherwise were.

At noon, we broke for a hearty lunch of Subway sandwiches, delivered by CORBA’s president, Steve Messer.  After the half-hour break, we headed back to work for another hour. Pat McQuaid showed us the technique the fire crews use to build trails – the pace picked up a lot, but it was probably too tiring for volunteers to use for the whole day.

These teams, part of the SoCal High School Cycling League, are committed to several trailwork days in the year, and this was the first for 2015. The next ones will be squeezed into their busy spring training and racing schedule.

CORBA thanks the teams, their schools and the league for the support of maintaining and building new trails. Everyone did a great job and we’re looking forward to the next event in about a month!

You can see more photos of the event in our high school trailwork photo gallery. (Thanks to Diana from Simi Valley for adding her photos to CORBA’s!)

Calabasas High Forms SoCal MTB League Team

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

CHS logochs logoSome members of the newly formed Calabasas High School mountain bike team attended this month’s Introduction to Mountain Biking Skills Class and asked if we might know of someone who would want to coach their team. They already have their team in place, all they need is a coach!

To find out more about being a coach for the Southern California High School Mountain Bike Racing League, go to

For more information about the club, contact club president Seta Aghababian,


Show Us Your Smile

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

smileSometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. We have created this message tag with the help of BikeTags ( so that we can spread the message of goodwill, peace, and harmony throughout the world. Or maybe just the message “don’t worry, be happy.” The idea is to show other trail users that we belong, we care, and we can coexist. Similar to the SoCal High School Cycling League’s “spirit of howdy”, it’s a way to remember to slow down and smell the sage brush.

We’ll be making the CORBA Smile Tags available to anyone who wants one, just send an email request to We’ll be giving away prizes for the best photos of the tags on your bikes while on the trail. Photos will be judged on originality, creativity, and overall quality. (Details to follow in the coming weeks). The grand prize will be a Niner full suspension frameset, donated by Niner.

OK, so maybe putting the Smile Tag on your bike* won’t save the world. But a lot of times a little smile can go a long way.

*The Smile Tag is a high quality plastic laminated product and comes with all hardware necessary to mount on a handlebar or under the seat. If mounting to the handlebar, a hole may need to be punched at the bottom of the tag to help secure the tag to a brake or derailleur cable (see photo).



Youth Mountain Bike Teams Give Back to SoCal Trails

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

When the Southern California High School Mountain Bike League was founded in 2008, its mission statement included the following: “Foster a responsible attitude toward the use of trails and wilderness.” How to implement and encourage that part of the SoCal league’s mission is still evolving, but its founder and executive director, Matt Gunnell, is launching a new initiative that could have a big impact on the future of trail advocacy.
In the spring of 2012, Gunnell organized a trail workday for the SoCal league, run by the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), an IMBA Chapter based in Los Angeles. Sixty-five student bike racers from five area high school mountain bike teams volunteered their efforts in the Angeles National Forest. The event led to a discussion between Gunnell and CORBA about how trail stewardship and etiquette could be introduced into the SoCal league’s programming.
“I realized that most of the kids and coaches coming into high school mountain bike racing have limited cycling backgrounds,” said Gunnell. We want to teach them that trail work is an important way to give back to the entire community.”
Gunnell envisions NICA leagues and individual high school teams creating partnerships with nearby IMBA Chapters and other established trail advocacy groups. He believes there is no need to reinvent the wheel when successful organizations already possess tools, trail building expertise and stewardship agreements with land managers.
Gunnell plans to make trail projects a regular part of the SoCal league’s training cycle. Coaches only need to stay in touch with the local IMBA Chapter, or other trail organization, to know when volunteer work days are scheduled. Then the teams can simply show up for the arranged events, ready to go to work.
Gunnell expects the SoCal league to expand to at least 400 student athletes, on 30 teams and with 80 coaches, by the spring of 2013. If each of the racers and coaches (and the occasional parent) contributed a four-hour workday it could generate more than 2,500 volunteer hours in a single year. As high school mountain biking grows across California and around the country, those numbers could become a significant source of trail stewardship.

Copied from IMBA Trail News, Fall 2012

Boy Scouts Take on Mountain Biking

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Over the past three years, CORBA’s trail crew has assisted in several eagle scout projects. Most were from eagle scout candidates who were also involved in the High School Mountain Bike League.   After discussions with local Boy Scout Troops and Councils, we put together a suggested set of requirements for a Mountain Biking Merit Badge in 2010. Apparently demand for a mountain biking badge was more widespread than what we saw locally, and the BSA leaders have listened.

During the 1990’s, IMBA and CORBA had approached the BSA about this very issue. At the time mountain biking wasn’t a mainstream sport, and wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now, especially with the younger generations, and the requests and suggestions fell on deaf ears.

How times have changed. Mountain biking has gone mainstream, and been legitimized as an Olympic sport. NICA is making great strives towards establishing the sports as a legitimate high school sport. The time is ripe for things to change.

According to a June 5 post by Scouting Magazine blogger Bryan Wendell, “The trail to Cycling merit badge just got a bit rougher.”  He explained: “The BSA has approved a mountain biking option for Cycling, a merit badge mainstay since 1911. So for the first time, Scouts who prefer fat tires instead of thin can earn the badge.”

We’re excited about this news, and commend the BSA for listening to their membership’s needs. Because the Boy Scouts like to keep a relatively steady number of available badges, it was much easier to have a mountain biking option added to the existing cycling merit badge instead of adding a new badge. This makes complete sense, as there is a lot of overlap in the skills, fitness, basic mechanical knowledge and safety aspects in both cycling disciplines.

We also feel that mountain biking has a definite place in the Scouting movement, as many of the scouting principles can be directly applied to the sport. Mountain bikers must be prepared, they need to be kind and exercise good trail etiquette to share trails with other users, the sport encourages health and fitness, and stewardship of our public lands.

CORBA invites any and all boy scouts (and the general public) to our free Skills Clinics, offered on the first Saturday of each month at Malibu Creek State Park. These free clinics will help get new riders the basic skills to get started in mountain biking.  IMBA also offers a youth-oriented publication, aimed at teen mountain bikers.