Five speakers made impassioned pleas that Duluth send engineers back to the drawing board with the county’s plans to reconstruct East Fourth Street, but city councilors voted 8-1 Monday night in support of the project.

As envisioned, efforts to rebuild the failing road could lead to the removal of about 200 mature shade trees, mostly silver maples.

On Monday night, the council passed a resolution in support of a general design for the reconstructed road as proposed by St. Louis County, which owns the street. But the project will return to the council in finer detail for a final vote in the fall. At that time, the council will weigh in not only on the road but also on the plan to replant boulevard trees.

“It is absolutely vital that the replanting be done properly,” said 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress, adding that the city will also require a plan for the continued care of any newly planted replacement trees.

Ann Redelfs, who lives on Fourth Street, acknowledged that Monday’s vote was nonbinding but nonetheless asked the council to send a message to the county that it must exercise more care to spare trees.

“I urge you to vote no,” she said, pledging that whatever the outcome, she and others would continue to fight for the trees.

“You will see us again,” she said.

Councilors Sipress and Barb Russ also live on East Fourth Street and said they dread the idea of losing mature trees.

But Sipress said that after much research, he’s convinced trees will have to be removed if the project is to be done right, resulting in a long-lasting road and allowing for the replacement of failing pipes below it.

Councilor Sharla Gardner promised that she and her peers would remain vigilant and would do what they could to minimize the loss of trees.

“We’re not going to sit back and just let those trees get cut down willy nilly,” she said. “We are going to be a part of the process, and we’re going to hold the county accountable for that piece, as well.”

While other councilors voted in support of the proposed road design, 4th District Councilor Howie Hanson stood in lone opposition, saying: “I’m not convinced we can’t do this project without saving the trees.”

“If we can put a man on the moon, we can work around some roots,” he said.

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