EMMETSBURG, Iowa (KTIV) - The small town of Emmetsburg, Iowa, boasts a beautiful downtown, a lake, a state park, and a golf course.
"How many cities within the state would die to have the setting that we have here?" Tony Kauten, Emmetsburg city council member said.
However, plans to build a community center right on the shores of one of the town's biggest features, Five Island Lake, have caused some controversy.
"The best outcome would probably be to put this community building on a different site," Candi Brotherton, activist in Emmetsburg said.
Candi Brotherton has started a petition to save Emmetsburg's oak trees.
The old burr oak trees lining the lake are the state tree. Twenty-one of those trees will be uprooted along the lakeside as the community center is planted in their place. "The bottom line for me is, is it really ethical to destroy living things for social events?" Brotherton asked.
However, city officials say that the number of trees being torn up is very small compared to the large number of trees that will remain on site at the golf course and the adjacent campground.
They say they're simply trying to make the land useable for everyone. "Numerous task forces and numerous committees have been put together to try and determine what would be the best use of this property to try and make sure that most of our community can get the most benefit out of this property," Kauten said.
As the project moves forward on the shores of Five Island Lake, city officials say they hope the community as a whole understands that they aren't trying to tear down, but showcase, the beautiful landscape of Emmetsburg.
"While you sit in this building, you're going to have the natural beauty right out the window and be able to enjoy those trees as well," Kauten said.
The city has already accepted a bid from a company to tear down the trees, and they'll be uprooted as soon as it's warm enough.
"We're not in a promising place right now, but I have faith that people may come around and rally," Brotherton said.
As Brotherton moves through Emmetsburg pushing her cause, she hopes people remember to be the voice of those trees.
"They are a substance that cannot speak for themselves, and I feel like the rest of us have to look out for them," Brotherton said.
The city council in Emmetsburg will accept bids for the land alterations February 13th and accept bids from construction companies for the building at the beginning of March.
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