Tree removal irks neighbors of Southwest Light Rail construction

Construction for the Southwest Light Rail is officially underway and although the plans have been in the works for years, the new reality is tough to take for people living along the line.

Some neighbors aren’t happy about the fate of the trees along the route, either.

Gary Zywotko knew workers from the SWLRT project were going to take down some trees on land owned by the Cedar Lake Shores Townhome Association, but he didn’t expect them to cut down two 60-70 foot tall pine trees inside the fence in his front yard.

“We were told the pink represented trees that were not to be cut off,” Zywotko said. “What’s inexplicable is why did they come deep into the property to cut these down?”

The project spokesperson says workers will replant 800 trees along with native grasses and wildflowers when construction wraps up in 2023.

“We’re not just turning this into a moonscape and when it’s done we’re leaving,” said Trevor Roy, a SWLRT project spokesperson. “We want this to be a resource still for residents and visitors.”

The tree removals are the latest developments in the 5-year construction of a commuter rail line that will connect downtown Minneapolis with the southwest suburbs.

The project spokesperson says crews have also cut down trees in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie and started demolition at the Southwest Transit Station where the line will end.

“We understand construction is inconvenient. Bear with us. A couple of years and all that will be right with the world,” Roy said.

Zywotko says the project has already uprooted his sense of security.

“It’s a sneak attack,” he said. “It’s a robbery in the night taking place in the daylight.”

The project spokesperson did not have a comment about Zywotko’s trees while they look into what happened.