Plans reversed on Honking TreeIt’s back to the design table with the planned memorial for the Honking Tree.
It’s back to the design table with the planned memorial for the Honking Tree. After getting static from residents about plans to turn the trunk of the tree into a replica of Split Rock Lighthouse, the city council and its Trees and Trails Commission will rethink the design and likely use the Two Harbors Light Station as a guide.
Council and commission member John Dover told the council Monday night that he heard plenty of opposition to the Split Rock plan and the placing of the memorial on Seventh Avenue across from the Dairy Queen. That opposition included comments on the News-Chronicle web site, letters to the editor, and a petition from 13 women demanding the city rethink the proposal pitched last month. They wanted a depiction of the Agate Bay icon.
Mel Sando, director of the Lake County Historical Society, which runs the light station bed and breakfast and historic site, said “it’s nice to know the city council listens to the people.” He said he didn’t have a problem with designing the tree to look like Split Rock but questioned its placement in the heart of the city along Seventh Street (Highway 61) where traffic is urged to head downtown and to the historic waterfront area.
Sando said any memorial might be better placed on the site where the Honking Tree came from – in the median, west of town, on the expressway. “Put it where it once was,” he said.
The city will have to find another spot for the memorial. Lot owner Rita Schluneger, also owner of Moose-cellaneous Gifts, kitty-corner from Dairy Queen, said someone is looking at the property targeted for the memorial and it could be sold. “So it might not be the best place,” she said. She suggested the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce information center near the city campground to the east.
The Trees and Trails Commission will work out the details at its 7 p.m. meeting next Thursday at city hall.
When discussing the design last month, council members said Split Rock better represented the whole county. They stressed that the Honking Tree was part of the Lake County experience and not just one for Two Harborites. They also said Split Rock, which is celebrating 100 years of use this year, is better known to visitors to the area.
John Gage, the artist who will create the memorial, said a design using the Two Harbors lighthouse will require cutting the tree trunk into planks to accommodate the square shape of the structure. “That’s the best route to go,” he said. Gage had envisioned using his chainsaw to simply carve the more spiral shape of the Split Rock Lighthouse.
Once he gets the word, the trunk will be sent to a saw mill and framing for the latest design will begin. He would like to see something finished by early June, in time for the peak tourism season.
The Honking Tree was cut down last April from the median on the Two Harbors Expressway. It had become a landmark for area residents and, by some accounts, was a signal for those returning from trips south that they were back home on the Shore. They honked in appreciation. The white pine was a holdover from the clearcutting done to install the highway in the 1960s.
There have been no arrests in the tree vandalism that caused an uproar in Two Harbors and across the region.