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Quad City Food Forest trees vandalized; city terminates license to use park space

Quad City Food Forest trees vandalized; city terminates license to use park space

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A seven-year effort to grow and maintain an edible food forest in Davenport has met an unexpected and abrupt end.

More than 30 fruit trees and bushes planted and maintained by the Quad City Food Forest in Davenport's Blackhawk Garden Park were destroyed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ali Domino-Keenan, executive director of the Quad City Food Forest, said a neighbor who expressed interest in wanting to volunteer and help maintain the food forest was seen by neighbors using pruning shears to hack the trees down to their trunks.

A police report for criminal damage was filed with the Davenport Police Department Wednesday morning, according to an emailed response from the police department.

"The complainant descried significant damage. Officers are following up on the incident. No further information is available at this time," according to the police department.

The Quad-City Times on Friday requested a copy of the police report, and was informed it would have to file a formal public records request that would be processed. The Times had not yet received a response to its request as of Friday evening.

No arrests had been made or charges filed as of Friday afternoon.

Domino-Keenan said it was difficult to estimate the amount of damaged caused, but called it "devastating."

"He pruned every single fruit tree, cut down all of apples, pears, plums and peaches," Domino-Keenan said. "Neighbors talked to him and attempted to stop him, but he continued over three blocks, cutting all of the food-bearing plants. More than 30 trees have been completely ruined. We do not know if they will survive during the spring. ... All of the blossom blooms, all of the branches where the fruit would grow, was cut off."

Domino-Keenan on Friday said it was not clear what the neighbor's motivations were for cutting down the fruit trees and bushes, which are intended for public consumption, and has been unable to contact him.

"We don't know why this happened," she said, adding mental health issues may have played a role and asked local support services to reach out to him and complete a home wellness check.

"At this point, all that we can do is try to gather more support and continue this work elsewhere," Domino-Keenan said. "This is in the city and the alderman's jurisdiction at this point."

Earlier this month the city of Davenport terminated its license agreement with the Quad City Food Forest to use space within Blackhawk Garden Park, located in Davenport's Garden Addition.

City officials say the nonprofit group of volunteers, dedicated to designing, growing and maintaining edible landscapes for the purposes of providing free, healthy food for the community, failed to meet a deadline to secure liability insurance required under the license agreement.

Officials in an April 15 letter to the group also cited a "lack of faith that we can work together in an ongoing capacity."

"The city has tried for quite some time to make this project work for all involved, but QCFF repeatedly met our efforts with dismissiveness and an unwillingness to cooperate," Assistant City Attorney Mallory Hoyt wrote. 

Domino-Keenan disputes the city claims, contending the Food Forest secured the required insurance, had worked to clean up the site and that city officials walked back on their arrangement. 

City officials contend the Food Forest failed to provide suitable, legible copies of its insurance policy and repeatedly failed to meet deadlines and requirements of the license agreement.

Davenport city officials say the Food Forest planted beyond the approved planting area as originally agreed to in the license agreement, failed to keep planted areas free of weeds and planted in a way that made it difficult for city parks staff to easily mow around planted areas.

Hoyt informed the Food Forest the city would begin removing "nuisance and unwanted items" planted by the Food Forest, starting Friday.

"At this time, the city considers any plantings remaining on the property as of April 30 surrendered by the Food Forest," Davenport Public Works Director Nicole Gleason responded in an email to the Times.

Gleason said the city plans to remove those low-to-the-ground plants that do not allow for adequate mowing of the park. Raised beds installed as part of community garden will remain in the park for use by neighbors.

"Any fruit trees that are not impeding water flow (and salvageable from the vandalism) will remain this season to see if surrounding neighbors and users of the park consume their fruit," Gleason wrote. "If the fruit trees become a nuisance, they will be considered for removal next season."

Gleason said fruit trees are not being removed by the city at this time, unless they are too damaged.

"Areas that still bear food can be enjoyed by visitors to the park and neighbors, however, no new plantings or heavy equipment will be allowed on the site," she wrote.

Domino-Keenan said the Quad City Food Forest will move on to focus on other sites in the Quad-Cities.


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