Wednesday, November 10, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
These trees still standing in a construction area at Kapiolani
Park are surrounded by yellow tape. Three other trees were
chopped down as part of the project to renovate
the Kapiolani Park bandstand.

City fells
Kapiolani trees,
sparking outcry

'Nothing is safe with
these people,' says an
outraged activist

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Preservationists are upset over the destruction of three older ironwood trees as part of the city's $3.1 million Kapiolani Park bandstand project.

The administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris, however, says the trees were among five removed because some of them were so termite-eaten they could fall on people.

Representatives of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society and the Kapiolani Park Advisory Council said they should have been consulted first.

Allan Voranaeff, president of the Kapiolani Park Preservation Society, said the society was told the city would not touch the trees, slated for removal and to be replaced with a pond along the new bandstand as originally planned.

That's because preservationists protested the plans, but last week, the trees -- estimated at between 70 and 100 years old -- were uprooted, Voranaeff said.

Managing Director Ben Lee denied that the trees were in conflict with the pond configuration and said they were taken down because two of the three trees were termite-damaged and rotting.

"Because they were in a cluster, it was better to remove the third one," he said, since its roots were entangled in the roots of the other two. The city consulted its own arborist, who concluded they were "unexceptional," Lee said.

Lee noted that the city has been replacing ironwoods of the same vintage nearby, along the Diamond Head side of Kalakaua Avenue, and is also replacing trees along the so-called "carriage drive" in the park just mauka of the bandstand.

He said he never promised anyone that those trees would not be felled."If trees are in imminent danger of falling, it's incumbent upon the city to remove them so that they don't become a liability or detriment to the citizens in the future."

Lee said the city got clearance from Tim Johns, chairman of the Board of Land Resources that oversees the state Historic Preservation Division, before removing them.

Don Hibbard, administrator for the Historic Preservation Division, said the city received oral approval to take down the three ironwoods. He said, however, "We had some concerns about the initial landscape proposal and they had to come back and get the landscape plan approved."

Hibbard said he did not expect the city to tear down the trees before that plan is approved. "That's the understanding we had, I thought," he said. "It sounds like somebody got a little anxious."

Lee said the trees destroyed were part of the ongoing bandstand phase of the project, while the landscaping referred to by Hibbard is part of a later phase.

Michelle Matson, chairwoman of the Kapiolani Park Advisory Council, was angered by the city's actions.

Matson said the mayor canceled a scheduled meeting with the preservationists on one day's notice. "Then they go in the middle of the night and rip them out," she said.

"The fact that Ben Lee is trying to cover up -- that this is an historic landscape -- is absolutely audacious. What else is going to happen with our historic landscape? Nothing is safe with these people."

Area Councilman Duke Bainum said it seemed to him the city did the right thing by removing a hazard.

"These are dead trees," Bainum said. "We have to be realistic. The best trees die just like all of us, and we should plant new trees to take their place."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin