Hundreds of neighbors in Davenport have come together hoping to save a local bike path.
Two neighbors who started the project more than three years ago responded to recent criticism Friday afternoon.
Dan Hankner and Ethan Graham say a small group of them decided to make use of the empty space located on the 4300 block of Marquette Street.
The path is hidden behind the woods right next to a dog park.
Hankner and Graham say the trail has been cast in a negative light, and they were accused of wrong doings they didn’t commit. Now they’re hoping to show people the path is only meant to do good.
“Before we came in here there was just a huge expanse of woodland that was all over grown, there was trash, there wasn’t really any trails,” said Hankner. “On the other side there a couple overgrown deer trails but there really wasn’t anything.”
Both men have a passion for the outdoors, and when they stumbled upon the empty space, they wanted to put it to good use.
“Since we’ve actually opened all of this up, that brings in positive traffic, and that kind of drives away the negative traffic, so we haven’t seen any of that since we’ve started opening these trail systems up.”
They say recent criticism accused them of damaging public property, cutting down trees, and creating a source for crime. But on Friday they say that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Graham says the only trees they handled were any that had fallen down over the years. They sawed them into smaller pieces to clear a path. But Graham says he loves the outdoors, and says none of them would damage trees or public property.
“I felt accused when someone doesn’t even know my values or whats important to me but would stamp that on me, it’s vert frustrating,” said Graham.
Over the last few weeks, their path has been cut short. Davenport Parks and Recreation removed a man-made bridge that crossed a creek, expanding the path to the other side of the water.
Now there are two large cones, and a warning sign in it’s place.
“You get all these volunteers to put together a bunch of hard work and just to see that ripped out for absolutely no good reason at all is just very frustrating,” said Hankner.
Graham says they’ve tried to maintain the trail, but says neighbors have volunteered their own time because they like the idea and want to keep it going. Now both men are worried if people are deterred from the path, it will become too hard to maintain.
Hankner says they contacted Davenport Parks and Recreation several times, but never heard back.
“So finally we just left a message with our contact information stating exactly what we had planned to do and if that was a problem, to call us back. They never contacted us.”
And say about a year ago, the City called them asking them to stop construction, but told them they could continue to use the trail.
“We stopped all construction but we did keep using it,” said Hankner.
But they say the last thing they want is a war with the City. Instead they’re hoping to create a partnership.
“And allow us to you know, turn this wasted piece of land into something that benefits the whole community,” said Hankner.
A little over a week ago, a Facebook group called “Support the Trails!” was started. It already has 270 members as of Friday afternoon.
Now Hankner and Graham say they are going to do their best to save the path, because they want to maintain a space that is meant to bring people together.
A public forum is scheduled for 10a.m. on Saturday. That will be at the American Legion Hall located at 702 W 35th Street in Davenport.
Local 4 News reached out to Davenport Parks and Recreation, we are still waiting on that response. We will continue to bring you more developments as they become available.