Wednesday, September 22, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Arborist Steve Nimz, of Tree People, pokes a long needle into
the trunk of an ironwood tree to show how the
inside has rotted away.

Kapiolani Park’s
46 ironwood trees must
go, arborist says

The tree expert says parts of the
decaying trees could fall
on park visitors

By Pat Omandam


Honolulu arborist Steve Nimz believes someone who visits Kapiolani Park shouldn't have to worry about ironwood branches or trees falling on them.

But because people are potential targets for some of the park's 46 decaying and dying ironwood trees, the city must take steps to ensure the park is safe for users, he said.

"If there's no target, it doesn't matter if a tree falls or doesn't fall," Nimz said during a Kapiolani Park Trust informational briefing yesterday.

Yesterday, Nimz, a member of the Honolulu Arborist Advisory Committee that recommended removal of the ironwoods, explained how the trees could look healthy on the outside while their internal structures could be compromised.

Plans to remove the ironwood trees this month have been pushed back indefinitely to give city officials more time to look at options to save the damaged trees, which are part of 250 trees planted by Archibald Cleghorn, the father of Princess Kauiulani, in 1890.

The 50-foot ironwoods are among those that line the sidewalks along Kalakaua Avenue between Monsarrat Avenue and the Dillingham fountain, forming a unique alley of trees appreciated by tourists as well as residents.

For years after they were planted, the city did minimal work on the trees. The real problem began about 25 years ago, when city workers cut the tops of the ironwoods because they were getting too high for workers on cranes to trim. That caused the trees to grow branches sideways instead of upward, which weakened their structural integrity and made them prone to disease.

"The damage is done," Nimz said.

In one tree slated for removal, Nimz showed how only a quarter of its base was alive, while the rest was hollow and probably could not support a tall tree. In another example, he poked a 2-foot-long needle through the diameter of a tree trunk, showing it was hollow.

Nimz said filling these cavities with some substance won't stabilize the trees because it wouldn't add strength to the root system, which holds the trees in place.

Nevertheless, Bob Vieira of the Kailua Neighborhood Board said the ironwood clusters are among the most historic trees in the state and should be saved.

City Councilman John Henry Felix, who is chairman of the Kapiolani Park Trust, said the trust is not authorized to get involved in the day-to-day operations of the park. But caring for the park's exceptional trees is part of its fiduciary responsibility, he said.

A city spokesman said there is no timetable for when the 46 trees will be removed. Plans call for the city to replace the trees with 100 10-foot ironwoods, funded by a $50,000 Waikiki beautification trust from the estate of Alice Spalding Bowen.

E-mail to City Desk

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