LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— On Thursday, Dennis Rainey, the man accused of hiring a crew to top nearly 100 trees on the Ouachita National Trail, spoke publicly about the incident for the first time during a special called meeting held by Central Arkansas Water.
Officials with CAW said the goal of the meeting was to update their board members of the tree removal that happened on their property.
Some hikers who encountered the damage on the trail, expressed their concern to board members and said they would like to see Rainey prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“It’s painful for me to be here today,” hiker Rhonda Patton said.
Patton says she hikes the Ouachita National Trail most days, however on Thursday, she spent the day at Central Arkansas Water, telling board members of the damage blocking her path.
“I spend a lot of time in the forest– I wish this tree cutting had never happened. I wish we weren’t here today,” she said.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation after they say Rainey, whose property backs up to the trail, illegally cut down trees sitting on the national trail.
Rainey says he has received threats from the public after the news broke last week.
“I have been in the public light for a long time and never have I ever experienced anything like this,” he said.
At the meeting on Thursday, Central Arkansas water presented a slide show showing an aerial view of the damage. In the images, an engineer with CAW it was visible where the trees are sparse on their property as a result of Rainey’s actions.
Rainey, though, claims he did not know it was illegal to cut the trees.
“We felt like we had clear permission from an executive with Little Rock Water,” he told the board.
According to a spokesperson for CAW, however, Little Rock Water has not existed in decades.
“I think one of the things we can talk about going forward is communication between property owners and the water-shed,” Rainey said.
In the meeting, Rainey also admitted to topping trees off his property since the 1990s to create a window for a sunset view on Lake Maumelle. Now, hikers are hoping Central Arkansas Water will pursue legal ramifications.
“I implore you to do everything possible to make sure nobody thinks of doing something like this in the future,” Patton told CAW board members.
The attorney for Central Arkansas Water says they are going to wait to see how Rainey’s case plays out criminally. He added if they aren’t happy with the outcome, they will pursue the matter in civil court.