West Bank ‘shoe trees’ get a pruning

Landcare workers cleared three of four ‘shoe trees’ Wednesday afternoon.

University Landcare gardener Jeffrey Hayes cuts down shoes from the trees near West Bank off the Washington Avenue Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

Chelsea Gortmaker

University Landcare gardener Jeffrey Hayes cuts down shoes from the trees near West Bank off the Washington Avenue Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

Emily Eveland

Around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, University of Minnesota students and faculty members stopped to watch Chad Klecker and Jeffrey Hayes remove shoes from three of the well-known “shoe trees” bordering the West Bank side of the Washington Avenue Bridge.

Hayes said they were told to remove as many shoes as possible from the three trees closest to land while leaving the original shoe tree untouched. When asked if he knew why the University wanted the shoes removed, he said, “I think it was because it’s unsightly.”

Both Klecker and Hayes are gardeners with University Landcare. Hayes, an arborist and official tree climber for the University, used ropes and carabineers to hoist himself into the tree closest to Anderson Hall and removed shoes with a sharp tree pruner.

Meanwhile, Klecker stood on the bridge and used another tree pruner to cut shoelaces, sending sneakers plummeting toward land. Some shoes landed on the road beneath the pedestrian walkway, witnesses said.

Within 20 minutes, the ground below was completely covered with an array of weathered shoes, and the trees were all but bare.

As Klecker finished up, economics junior Jake O’Brien pointed to his pair of blue sneakers in the last remaining shoe tree.

“My buddy was drunk last night and threw them in the tree,” he said.

Klecker gladly retrieved them.