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Bettendorf's Family Museum has an awesome project in the offing, and I don't use that word lightly.

Supporters are raising $500,00 to install a "Luckey Climber" — a safe, interactive, three-dimensional vertical maze that children can climb because the climbing part is encased in thousands of feet of hand-woven, vinyl-coated steel cable to create seamless netting, according to the climber website.

Imagine the old rocket of "Rocket Park," only more safe.

No falls are greater than 18 inches, and platforms are placed so that no child can slide down multiple climbing panels.

Part art, part jungle-gym, these climbing structures are called "Luckey Climbers" because they were developed by Spencer Walker Luckey. They are made in a factory in New Haven, Connecticut.

Last Saturday, April 27, supporters hosted a fundraiser called "Night at the Museum" that garnered about $15,000 toward the goal. One of the highlights was a dance prepared by Mayor Bob Gallagher, aldermen and department heads. You can find it on YouTube but, sadly, it's difficult to identify who's who because of costumes. All I can say is, those Bettendorf folks are more fun-loving than you might think.

The 'Luckey Climber' is expected to be installed in early 2020.

SALT-DAMAGED TREES: Not to load up today's section with too much about trees, but as I was driving  across Iowa recently on Interstate 80, I couldn't help but notice the sorry, brown state of all the white pine trees.

It was alarming.

All along the road, from Davenport to Des Moines, these stately, tall trees are showing brown, top to bottom.

At first I thought it was salt damage, but the more I saw, the more I became convinced it must be something else because these trees are so far from the road. Plus, the cedar trees didn't seem to be affected.

But Mark Vitosh, Iowa Department of Natural Resources district forester, says he believes my first thought was correct.

No blight, no new insect pest or disease, just salt.

"Everything I've seen is one-sided," he said, meaning that the side facing the interstate is brown, while the other side is still green.

And even though these trees are 80 to 100 feet from the roadway, Vitosh said he is confident that what with the strong winds we had this winter and all the salt and brine that was applied to keep drivers safe, the brown we're seeing is salt-induced. It simply dried out the needles.

If disease was to blame, the damage wouldn't be so uniform. In this case, every single tree is brown. In addition, he said he noticed some browning on other trees, too, such as cedar. It's just that white pine is probably the most susceptible to salt, he said.

The good news is that the trees have a chance of recovering, he said. If the buds are not damaged, they will open up in the next few weeks with green needles as usual. And, next year, all the needles that are brown now will fall away as they would have regardless of salt damage because white pines hold their needles only for two years.

The concern is that the trees have enough fresh growth — on the road side as well as the back side — that there is good photosynthesis to nourish the tree and help it grow.

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DOING HIS PART: If you're like me, you also notice the vast amount of JUNK that has appeared in our road ditches after the snow melted and before the grass has had a chance to cover it up.

I congratulate those who participate in cleanups, either as they go on a walk by themselves, or in an event organized by a group.

Pictured on this page is Gary Kerofsky, of Moline, who last Saturday hosted — in the rain — his 10th annual cleanup along the railroad tracks near his home and the Mississippi River.

"We filled a Dumpster with tires 10 years ago, but things look much better when you keep up on it each year,"  Kerofsky said.

With him in the photo is his daughter, Clare Lindahl, a former Quad-City environmentalist who is now CEO of the state Soil and Water Conservation Society, based in Ankeny.

WILDFLOWERS IN THE RAIN: Last Saturday's rain discouraged people from turning out for the wildflower walk at Black Hawk State Historic Site, Rock Island. But, with about eight hardy souls showing up, about 30 people strolled through the woods, including leaders and volunteers, Janet Moline, a Black Hawk volunteer said.

One of my sisters was visiting for the weekend, so we went Sunday. We spotted lots of May apples as well as wild ginger, Dutchmen's breeches, spring beauty, trillium, false rue anemone, bellwort (two), Jack-in-the-pulpit (one) and the leaves of bloodroot.

It's great to have such a treasure so close by.

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