A Publication of WTVP

Trail Blazers

by Steve Stein | Photos by Ron Johnson |

When Peoria area trails are ready to ride, thank a PAMBA member

Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association (PAMBA) members take care of the lifeblood of their sport: the trails they use.

They build them. They maintain them. They teach others how to build and maintain them. They groom the trails when they’re covered with snow. They even inform riders when they need to stay off the trails, meaning within 24 hours of any rainfall. “We say if there’s mud on your heels or wheels, turn around,” said PAMBA President Cory Mason, 35.

All in the name of promoting and growing their sport.

“We’re advocates for off-road biking,” said PAMBA Treasurer Deanna Kennedy.

Oh, yeah, and sometimes they ride.

PAMBA is a nonprofit founded in 2000 by a group of like-minded bikers who wanted to expand the trail system in central Illinois. The organization now brags more than 500 members with a collective mission: to promote off-road biking through education, trail maintenance and social events.

To that end, PAMBA members design, build and maintain trails on nine properties, working with eight land managers. They use all of their own equipment.

“We know how to build sustainable trails,” said Kennedy, 35.

Hands-on involvement with the trails changes your perspective about them, said Mason.

“You take ownership and pride in the trails because you know what it takes to fix them,” he said.

At Lauterbach Park, PAMBA’s latest project, PAMBA members will build a one-mile, multi-use trail this year and teach community members how to care for it.

Over at Fort Creve Coeur, a new trail that is 1.3 miles long with 224 feet of climb is being constructed.

It’s not just about providing recre-ational opportunities. The environmental health of the trails is important to PAMBA members, as well.

“Mountain bikers have a responsibility to minimize the impact on the land they use,” the group’s mission statement reads.

Moreover, “few government agencies have the personnel or money to adequately maintain trails or their use,” which is why “PAMBA and its members are dedicated to volunteering regularly for trail work projects.”

In 2022, PAMBA documented nearly 4,000 hours of trail building and maintenance on more than 100 trails.

Ongoing education is a priority. PAMBA hosts a trail building and maintenance class annually, more often if there is interest. Safety, proper tool use, tread cutting, bench cutting, and other design and maintenance topics are covered. Each class has morning classroom instruction and an afternoon hands-on session.

Of course, it’s also supposed to be fun, so PAMBA holds multiple social events throughout the year including group night rides, ladies only rides and beginner group rides. PAMBA also hosts at least one local race each year.

Mountain biking is good for the area economy, said PAMBA Vice President Scott Bailey.

“Our bike shops benefit, and because we’re all traveling to get to the trails, we’re stopping to eat and get gas,” he said.

Three area bike shops — Bushwhacker in Peoria, Little Ade’s in Pekin and Trek Bicycle Peoria in Peoria Heights — are PAMBA sponsors.

There’s no doubt PAMBA’s three officers love their sport.

“I’ve met so many great people through mountain biking,” which is “a great stress reliever,” Kennedy said. “You can let loose, blow off steam, and get some exercise while you’re connecting to nature.”

Added Bailey, 49: “I was one of those guys who used to do tricks on BMX bikes in the 1980s. A lot of my friends are into mountain biking now. You almost feel like a kid again.”

PAMBA Protected Trails in the Peoria Area

Below are the locations, the year of PAMBA involvement, the site managers and the PAMBA member trail stewards.

Farmdale Park, East Peoria 2000, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Eric Thatcher and Cody Geibelausen

Jubilee Park, Brimfield 2000, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Nick Perrow

Dirksen Park, Pekin 2004, Pekin Park District, Andy Sullivan

Independence Park, Marquette Heights 2004, Pekin Park District, Tony Thaller

Black Partridge Park, Metamora 2006, Metamora Park District, Terry Cater

Wildlife Prairie Park, Hanna City 2009, Wildlife Prairie Park, Betsy Silzer and Steve Berger

Kinsey Park, Peoria 2016, Peoria Park District, Cory Mason and Scott Fredrickson

Fort Creve Coeur, Creve Coeur 2022, Village of Creve Coeur, Scott Bailey and Cory Bailey

Lauterbach Park, Bartonville 2023, Bartonville Park Board, Cory Mason

Steve Stein

Steve Stein

is a longtime Peoria area print journalist