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There's a little bit of Muscatine across Iowa, thanks to Muscatine cyclist Dave Cooney, who plants trees in the cities that host riders in the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

Caleen Pagel of Muscatine was surprised and delighted last week when she learned Cooney was planting trees in her former hometown of Harlan during RAGBRAI, which ran July 20-26.

Pagel, a physical therapist at Muscatine Physical Therapy, went home to Harlan as a volunteer to help welcome the RAGBRAI riders. She also wanted to meet up with members of Muscatine's Melon City Bike Club.

One of those cyclists is Cooney, a client at Muscatine Physical Therapy. Pagel knew Cooney was planning to plant a tree in Harlan, as he had been coordinating that activity with Pagel's brother, Kevin Krohn, of Harlan's Parks and Recreation Department.

Cooney planted a frontier elm in Harlan, where he was interviewed by Iowa Public Radio for a show that aired July 31.

Planting trees is important to the environment, said Cooney, and it also symbolizes his pride in Muscatine and Iowa.

"Iowa is one of the best-kept secrets," said Cooney. "And that's what I said on the Iowa Public Radio broadcast."

Cooney, 59, has been riding in RAGBRAI for 15 years, and in 2005 he began planting a tree in each of the towns where riders stay overnight.

When RAGBRAI ended in Muscatine in 2006, the fifth time the city hosted riders, Cooney planted an oak tree downriver from the "Red Brick Building."

"The DNR was sponsoring me that year (for the tree planting)," said Cooney. "And they had oak trees, which is also the state tree of Iowa."

Cooney's wife, Linda, didn't ride RAGBRAI. However, "She's supportive of what I've done," said Cooney.

Dave, an electrician at Monsanto, has also volunteered to plant trees in Muscatine as part of the statewide Trees Forever and the Alliant Energy Branching Out community tree-planting program.

Planting trees for the RAGBRAI host towns is his way of giving back to the people who make the ride a success each year, said Dave.

"I like to thank the communities that roll out the welcome mat for us," he said "In January, as soon as the news comes out for the route, the people in those communities have to get busy and probably stay busy until the month after RAGBRAI ends."

The only tree he planted on the RAGBRAI route that hasn't survived is in Sioux City. "It was planted by the Missouri River, which flooded last year," he said.

Pagel said Cooney coordinated the planting of 67 trees over the past several years in the name of the Melon City Bike Club.

"What an ambassador for our town," said Pagel. "He does not look for any credit himself, but I think he should be acknowledged publicly."


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