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Honking Tree removed from highway, its future uncertain

(Photo by Monica Isley) The trunk of the Honking Tree, minus its branches, is lowered to a flatbed truck for removal from the highway.1 / 3
(Photo by Monica Isley) A highway crewman tightens the chain that holds the Honking Tree in place on the flatbed truck, before being moved to a temporary location while its future is determined.2 / 3
(Photo by Monica Isley) The Honking Tree is pulled from its resting place on the median, across the ditch and toward the waiting flatbed truck.3 / 3

Cradled almost gently in the tines of a huge fork lift, the remains of the Honking Tree was removed from its resting place Tuesday and placed on the waiting flatbed truck.

From there it was taken to the MnDOT yard in Two Harbors, where it will await the decision of the community on what will happen to it.

John Bray, spokesman for MnDOT which technically owns the 113-year-old tree, said they intend to give the trunk to Two Harbors. Mayor Randy Bolen Jr. is planning a community meeting on May 12, 6 p.m. at the Conmunity Center, to solicit ideas for the best way to preserve what's left of the highway icon.

"I've gotten so many emails and phone calls it's just been nuts," Bolen said this week. "People are treating this like a funeral."

On Tuesday, the northbound lanes of Highway 61 were blocked off while highway crews finished delimbing the tree that was felled by persons unknown on April 29. Less than 30 minutes later, it was on its way, leaving behind a stump covered with memorials left by grieving passersby and local residents.

Meanwhile, people search for ways to remember what had been the only tree left standing after the expressway was built in the early '60s.

On Sunday night, a Memorial Drive-by-and-Honk parade was organized. Black Woods Bar & Grill in Two Harbors, whose logo is the Honking Tree, intends to sponsor a fund raiser for replacement of the tree. Details for that have yet to be decided, according to general manager Jessie Larson.

Countless individuals have indicated a desire to contribute in some way to replacement and/or restoration of the big white pine.

The Lake County News-Chronicle set up a fund at The Lake Bank to collect donations. It has been specified for replacement of the tree, restoration of the trunk of the original tree and, if necessary and depending on how much is collected, to use toward a reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

Lake County undersheriff Jerry Norberg said they are tracking down any leads that come along--"but it appears to be more rumor than any actual any leads so far."

"The bottom line is, until this gets less media attention, we won't get anywhere," he said on Tuesday. "Whoever did this likely didn't realize it would have such community impact. People are outraged."

Norberg emphasized that anyone with knowledge should contact the sheriff's department at (218) 834-8385. They can remain anonymous.

"It's really important that we have some direction from someone who knows," Norberg said.

Meanwhile, as the tree was trucked slowly to its temporary resting place, walkers and drivers slowed and watched, recognizing the import of the cortege passing them by.