Residents fighting plan to remove trees along scenic Becker County byway
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. (KVRR/KDLM) – Residents opposed to a plan to eliminate several miles of trees for a highway improvement project in Becker County voiced their concerns during a virtual public meeting.
The Minnesota Dept. of Transportation plans to clear portions of trees along the Lakes Country Scenic Byway on Highway 34 as part of a resurfacing project from Becker County Road 29 to west of Osage.
Trees will be removed 65 feet from both sides of the center of Highway 34 in what’s called a “clear zone” to make more room for out-of-control vehicles and to allow more sunshine to reach the surface to help with snowmelt.
Many Lakes Area residents, conservation and tourism groups say the project would significantly alter the character of one of the most scenic drives in Minnesota.
Witt Corwin said he fears a large swath of trees will be removed in the most beautiful section of the road.
“I’ve been on this road upwards of 70 years, I went back yesterday with snow shoes and a measuring tape to get a handle on what the distances are – I wish it was 65 feet, but I typically measured 40 feet – which tells me a very wide swath of trees are going to be destroyed. Its always impressed me that this is a highway that you drive down and feel like you’re in the trees.”
Nearly 70 people participated in Wednesday’s meeting. Nearly all comments directed at MnDOT were concerned with the number of trees that may need to be cut or the potential damage of meadows of lady slippers that highlight portions of the drive.
MnDOT suggested that they’ve worked to reduce the number of trees being removed in some locations and that damage to lady slippers, the official state flower, would be minimal.