Inclement weather won't hold her back from her daily duties.
Despite heavy rain, Donna Sprengelmeyer left her Davenport home just before 7 a.m. Wednesday to get on the trail.
“That’s what the umbrella’s for,” said Marty Sprengelmeyer, who confirmed his wife’s whereabouts over the phone about 6:45 a.m.
If you frequent Duck Creek Parkway before 10 a.m., you've probably seen her. Toting two plastic bags, the 68-year-old retiree combs the recreational trail for litter almost every day between Eastern Avenue Park and Marquette Park.
“There’s always something to pick up, and you never know what you’ll find,” she said as she traipsed through a swampy patch of grass at Junge Park.
By 8 a.m., Sprengelmeyer partly filled one bag with recyclables, including a beer bottle and a pop can, and another one with random scraps.
She keeps her eyes peeled for salvageable items as well. That umbrella she uses, for example. She picked it up during one of her walks, which stretch about 5.5 miles from her door west past Brady and Harrison streets to Washington Street and back.
If she finds clothing, she’ll take it home, wash it and drop it off at the Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store in town.
“It doesn’t do any good in the landfill,” she said, showing off her battery-powered MP3 player she brings with her on her treks.
The mother of two and grandmother of six solely listens to Brooks & Dunn and has three of the country duo’s albums on repeat.
Without taking credit for it, Sprengelmeyer, who jokingly refers to herself as the "bag lady," serves as a volunteer arm of the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department.
“We have a beautiful parks system, and you can’t expect them to do everything,” she said, adding that she and Marty bought their home prior to construction of the trail in the 1970s. “Plus, I have the time, and it makes me feel good.”
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Duck Creek Parkway is the oldest recreational trail in the Quad-Cities. It spans about 13.5 miles, and meanders through native woodlands, wetlands, urban housing areas, two golf courses and eight city parks in Davenport and Bettendorf.
Scott Hock, director of parks and recreation in Davenport, said he’s never met Sprengelmeyer to thank her, but most of his crews on the ground have run into her at some point.
“We don’t have the resources to be everywhere all the time, so it’s great when neighbors and park users help us out,” he said.
The Cornbelt Running Club also recently recognized the Sprengelmeyers for their work, naming them volunteers of the month in their newsletter.
Marty, a world-class ultrarunner in his heyday, called the trail his second home.
“I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years,” Marty, 70, said. “It’s a great asset for the city, and it gives people the opportunity to get out all year, even in the winter.”
Michael Mallon, a marathoner who moved here from North Carolina with his family of runners about eight years ago, refers to Sprengelmeyer as a “trail angel.”
“I thank her every chance that I get, but she truly is an unsung hero,” he said. “It's spotless, and the reason the trail looks so nice is because she’s out there, and she’s got a bag full of trash every time you see her.”
Sprengelmeyer will collect pretty much anything except used condoms, cigarette butts and dirty diapers. She’s on the trail most of the year, except when it gets icy, and is known for sporting a white cowboy hat and bandanna in the summer months.
She interacts with regular trail users she knows and hopes her practice encourages others to follow suit.
Mallon, 50, said Sprengelmeyer sets an example for every walker, jogger and cyclist in the area.
“It’s our trail, and we need to take care of it,” he said. "We need to do a little more than just thank her."