Minnetonka residents protesting tree removals for new water main

- The City of Minnetonka’s plan to upgrade its infrastructure may mean a downgrade for nature. A plan to put in a new water main could force more than one hundred trees to be chopped down.

Crews were scheduled to start removing the trees later this week, but that's been put on hold temporarily until the city council decides whether it wants to find another option.

"It’s the sanctuary. People drive down the street and it’s the canopy," said Mary Schmidt, who lives where some of the trees may be coming down.

Mary and her husband Joseph Schmidt moved to Minnetonka more than a decade ago because of the mature trees. But the upcoming road construction project could uproot four of the century-old silver maples in their front yard.

"Absolutely devastating. I can't imagine this home without those trees. Driving in each day and not seeing this tree here. No, its naked,” Schmidt said.

Minnetonka plans on replacing its aging infrastructure by putting in a new water main in the neighborhood south of Grey's Bay, where there's been a high number of water main breaks. Crews had planned to remove roughly 300 trees as part of the process, although city officials now say that number will be less than 200 after hearing from neighborhood residents.

"We want to be able to save as many trees as possible but balancing that with the critical need to have a safe healthy reliable water system," said city manager Geralyn Barone.

Some neighbors worry the city's plans to dig trenches eight feet deep means dozens of trees will be taken when they don't have to be. In response, they sent a petition with more than 100 signatures to the city's Environmental Quality Board asking officials to look at other methods that would save the trees.

"In my opinion there's no reason they are using the methodology they are using. I'm an engineer for the city of St. Louis Park. We would never had done a project like this. There's no reason for it," said Dick Koppy.

On Monday night, the city council will review whether it wants to make changes or go ahead as planned.

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