MOLINE -- Mother Nature is wasting no time reclaiming Sylvan Island, now that the bridge leading to the popular park and mountain biking site is closed.
Weeds are growing through the crushed rock trail that circles the island.
Pointing to them, Drew Hanson said, "Next year, something like that will be a couple feet high. Eventually the trees will take hold." Mr. Hanson is a member of Friends of Off Road Cycling who has helped maintain the trail system.
The "shoulders" of the trail, usually neatly mowed, are filled with grass 1 to 2 feet high. A flower bed near the kiosk is outlined in thick stone, but is now covered with wild growth and filled with milkweed plants 6 feet tall.
In areas where the sun touches the mountain bike trail, it is covered by vines and weeds. In other areas, branches, fallen trees and driftwood block the trail.
"Nature coming back -- it is pretty -- but it is sad there is no trail out here to ride anymore," said Mr. Hanson.
Mr. Hanson is afraid groups and mountain bikers from all around the nation may have to wait up to two years for the ancient access bridge to be repaired or replaced. In the meantime, the only way to get to the island is in a boat, as Mr. Hanson and a Dispatch/Argus reporter and photographer did last week.
In addition to the rapidly spreading vegetation, animals and wildlife are more visible throughout the island, from a thick ground hog crossing the path to a large area of tall weeds filled with butterflies.
Though disappointed that access to the island is so limited, Mr. Hanson said nature's reclamation of the island is positive, too. Overgrowth is filling in areas of trail his group. may want to change, anyway. The natural process can make the restoration of former trail area less work for the volunteers, he said.
"You cannot have set expectations when you are dealing with nature. You have to be open to what it gives you," Mr. Hanson said.
Moline Park operations and maintenance manager Rodd Schick isn't concerned either. He said it won't take long for the city to restore the island to a safe and usable state once bridge access is restored.
An engineer's recent report to the park board said the 100-plus year-old bridge should be replaced, at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.There is no funding available in the park department's budget, and Park and recreation director Laura Duran said it will be up to the city council to act. The park department did apply for a state grant to cover 80 percent of the cost, but it could be up to six months before it knows if it is awarded the funds.
Mr. Hanson likes the existing bridge, and said it would be nice if it could be repaired.
"It fits the aesthetics of the island, the ruins out here," he said. "The rivets and grunge on it fits with the ruins on the island. It is neat to have that bridge as the gateway to the trails. It is the icon of the island. When people think of Sylvan Island, they think of the bridge," he said.
"It is what you remember most when you are here," he said.
Sylvan Island facts.
-- Thirty-five acres.
-- Four and a half miles of trails.
-- For nine years the site of Sylvan Island Stampede, a triathlon that was moved this year after the bridge closed.
-- Named a Top 10 urban mountain bike park by Dirt Magazine.
-- Also used by hikers, canoeists, kayakers, fishermen, families and bicyclists,
-- In addition to natural areas, it is dotted with remnants of industrial plants.
-- Remains open to public, but is accessible only by boat.
Today is Friday, Dec. 6, the 340th day of 2013. There are 25 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The street crossings on Washington and Jefferson are to be taken up immediately and underlaid with sand to raise above the level of the roadway before it freezes. 1888 -- 125 years ago: J.O. Bean, father of W.H. Bean, grocer, was accidentally thrown from his wagon near the Rock Island bridge on the Arsenal and received severe cuts and bruises on his face and body. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Sgt. Birger F. Westergard, of the United States Marine Corps, has arrived in Rock Island to take charge of the local recruiting office. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Five cases of diphtheria at Lincoln School prompt the city physician, Dr. Edward DeSilva, to urge parents to have their children immunized, as he fears epidemic. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Rock Island Arsenal will have its own newspaper with the first edition scheduled to be published Friday, Dec. 13. The paper, which will carry advertising, will be published by Bawden Bros. Inc. of Davenport. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The New Year should ring a better Quad-Cities economy, according to a survey of people in business made by First National Bank of Moline. "Based on our survey, we see a bright outlook for 1989," said Richard M. Bishop, the bank's president.