CAMBr (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) is well-known for its high-energy Palos Meltdown, a two-day race and exhibition extravaganza held annually in August on the Palos Preserves’ extensive singletrack trail system. Less well-known is that CAMBr members volunteer over 2,000 hours each year to build and maintain those same natural surface singletrack trails enjoyed by runners, bikers, equestrians and hikers.
“The Forest Preserves have tremendous value. It’s amazing to go out and get away from the energy of the city. There’s no traffic, no city noise… there’s a re-energizing and rejuvenation that you can’t get anywhere else but in the preserves,” said Jerry Stoeckigt, executive director of CAMBr.
CAMBr members have volunteered their time to build and maintain trails in the Palos area ever since the organization’s inception 21 years ago. “This is a very dedicated group. They are out two to three times each week working on trails, which is something we’d never be able to do ourselves,” said Mike Hart, trails coordinator at the Forest Preserves. “CAMBr works closely with Forest Preserves Trail Management staff, Resource Management staff and ecologists to make sure that their work is ecologically sound and sustainable.”
This dedication and close collaboration with Forest Preserves staff is evident in CAMBr’s self-sufficient workdays—in addition to volunteers, they bring their own trailer and tools. But CAMBr workdays aren’t all work. Volunteers get a free lunch and, more importantly, an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor on a group trail ride after the day’s work is complete.
CAMBr welcomes all volunteers, regardless of organization membership. “There are more and more people using the trails all the time, it’s important to continue to develop the trail system… in order to do this, we need more volunteers to help,” said Jerry Stoeckigt. “The great part about volunteering for the Forest Preserves is building something for one group, and seeing everyone able to use and enjoy it. The end result makes you feel great!”