ROLAND, Ark.—The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation after hikers noticed nearly 100 trees on a national trail were cut down illegally.
“There is dead limbs everywhere and these trees– some of them will not survive. Some will, but some of them won’t. It’s not right,” said Kay Sanders, a hiker.
Sanders says she has hiked the Ouachita Trail for 30 years near Spillway Road and was devastated to see the damage done last week.
“You don’t have the right to do this. No one has the right to do this,” said Sanders.
According to the Pulaski County Sherriff’s Office, a hiker saw six men taking chainsaws to trees on the Ouachita Trail last week.
Central Arkansas Water, who owns the land which the portion of the trail runs through, says a homeowner whose property backs up to the trail, contracted the work to be done.
“We don’t take things like this lightly. The tops of the trees look like something out of the Lorax,” said Raven Lawson with Central Arkansas Water.
Lawson says she has received around 50 emails and dozens of phone calls from hikers upset about damage.
She says after further evaluation, they believe 100 trees were either cut down illegally or had the tops of them shaved off because the homeowner wanted to view Lake Maumelle which was blocked by the trees.
“The view to the lake could definitely be increased– the view to Pinnacle mountain could be increased… there’s definitely a lot of nature that could produce million dollar views out here,” said Lawson.
They believe most of the trees will die, and the ones that did not will take years to grow back.
“A lot of damage and a lot of righteousness thinking you can do all of this, that you have the power, when it isn’t even your land,” said Sanders.
Central Arkansas Water says they are waiting to clean up the damage until the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office has finished their investigation.
Initially, the man accused of cutting the trees had not said anything about the incident, but on Monday afternoon Dennis Rainey released a statement.
In the statement, he states that he and his wife were responsible for the cutting of the tree’s and they did so under the belief they had permission from a Little Rock Water executive.
In response to public objections regarding the cutting down and topping of trees on public land, we Dennis and Barbara Rainey did top multiple trees and cut 4 pines. However, we did so under the assumption that previously granted permission from a Little Rock Water executive was still in effect. Since then, we have met with CAW executives and have begun discussions to resolve our unintentional mistake.
We believe we are stewards of this good earth and take seriously our God given responsibility to care for His creation. As property owners near Lake Maumelle since 1983, we have planted dozens of trees and have worked to both improve and maintain our property while being environmentally aware and safe.
We apologize to all those who are adversely affected. We are for CAW, for the environment and for our freedoms and values as citizens of our city, state and country.
Investigators say the Raineys could face charges of first degree criminal mischief.