Jan 26, 2023 | By: Justin Othoudt

Concerned Citizens Protest Tree Removal on Lake Country Scenic Byway

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s recently initiated Highway 34 resurfacing project has been the source of controversy among many citizens surrounding the Detroit Lakes area, as the project would see the removal of several trees surrounding the Lake Country Scenic Byway. As a way of protest, several community members and conservation groups gathered last night to voice their concerns.

“When we originally came up with the idea, the hope was to have, finally, an opportunity and a public forum from the Minnesota Department of Transportation as well as the Federal Highway Administration to be able to hear directly from the public,” explained Daniel Lakemacher, Honor the Earth Human Resources. “Unfortunately as it turned out, both agencies declined to even attend.”

The rally saw the Izaak Walton League give a presentation regarding the project, and later, dozens of citizens asked questions and voice their opinions on the project.

“The turnout here in-person on a snowy cold winter night in January and the people who were online were just so encouraging,” said Izaak Walton League Minnesota State Director Willis Mattison. “[It] put wind under our wings, and we want to start in again the fight with new energies”.

Much of the conversation at the rally revolved around what the next steps in protesting the project would be. Ideas ranged from letter writing campaigns to visual demonstrations of protest.

“I think it really is going to hinge on a lot more public involvement and engagement,” said Lakemacher. “In what form that takes, at this point, I’m not sure.”

“We think there’s momentum here. The sad part is that, every day that goes by, more trees are falling on Highway 34,” stated Mattison. “We hope the voices are so loud, that they have to stop the heavy equipment and listen to the people.”

MnDOT’s tree removal portion of their project began on Jan. 25, with the department planing to remove up to 65 feet worth of trees from the center line of the road.

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