About 10 trees at Lewiston’s Locomotive Park will be removed due to construction on the adjacent intersection this year, but the founder of the annual Winter Spirit exhibition at the park thinks the project will actually amp up the light show.

“We’re excited about the changes they’re doing down there,” Larry Kopczynski said. “It will open this up. From our standpoint, this is going to change the viewing of our displays. We might put something over there that waves to the traffic.”

Western Construction has contracted with the Idaho Transportation Department to rebuild the intersection for $7.5 million, with the city of Lewiston contributing about $1 million of that total. A primary goal is to end the chronic backups that happen when southbound vehicles on Memorial Bridge need to turn east onto East Main Street.

But the geometry of a more efficient intersection requires more lanes and a wider roadway. And that will nibble off the southern edge of the park. Kopczynski said he’s walked the new curb line, and he estimated the encroachment varies between 3 and 10 feet.

That area includes 10 trees that need to be removed, and pink X marks have been spray-painted on their trunks. The largest is a towering tulip tree that Kopczynski called the sister of Winter Spirit’s lighted “Musical Tree” that visitors activate by dancing on nearby footpads. The organization previously extended power to the doomed tree, but Kopczynski said he’s never had enough volunteers to cover it with lights.

“It would be a good 50- to 60-hour tree to decorate,” he said.

A smaller tulip tree grows about 15 feet away. It is also slated for removal, but its demise could prove a little more delicate. The Orchards Rotary Club planted it in 2000 “in memory of Lynda Mollenberg,” and a stone marker sits at its base. Lewiston Parks and Recreation Director Tim Barker said that when situations like this arise, the city contacts the family or organization that made the dedication to see if they want to move the marker to an existing tree or plant a new tree at a different location.

Several mature shrubs and hedges planted along some of the park’s current curb line will also need to go. Barker said he is meeting with state transportation department officials next week to discuss landscaping and the effects construction will have on the park.

“Part of that discussion will entail the plan for replacement of trees that will be getting removed,” Barker said in an email to the Lewiston Tribune.

Idaho Transportation Department project engineer Curtis Arnzen said the state will cover most of the landscaping budget. The department actually owns the right of way that includes the park, and the city operates it through the parks department.

Winter Spirit decorates three of the smaller trees that are scheduled for removal. One other decorated tree that will overhang the new roadway may also be removed, but Kopczynski didn’t know if a decision has been reached.

“We have 104 trees with power down there, so that leaves us with 100 left to decorate,” he said with a hearty laugh. “We’ll probably be OK.”

Another welcome byproduct of the construction could be the replacement of about 100 feet of the sidewalk that runs through the center of the park. Kopczynski said there is extensive damage from years of running a lift over the concrete, so Winter Spirit is hoping to secure donations to replace it and put a deeper base underneath so it can withstand the weight.

Winter Spirit is also planning to build a permanent concession stand this year. It will be designed to look like a gingerbread house, and water and wastewater lines may be extended to the site as part of the project.

“This is a great opportunity to get some things fixed down there,” Kopczynski said.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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