HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The city has private contractors handle maintenance for most of its trees, but its Division of Urban Forestry still has work to do, and usually it's done by Nathan Takasane, right, and his crew of four. Taking a break last week from trimming trees along Kapiolani Boulevard, the crew consists of, from left, Tito Iloreta, Yvette Hall, Danny Kadowaki and, standing in a "cherry picker," Romulo Campo.
A day in Oahu’s
Nathan Takasane says there's never a dull day for those who maintain the city's trees
THIRTY-ONE years after joining what is now called the city Division of Urban Forestry, Nathan Takasane still enjoys going out on the road with his small crew of tree trimmers to take care of "hot spots" and other situations that require his services. He has regular hours, but he also is on call for emergencies. Takasane, 52, is a graduate of Kaimuki High School, not too far from where the division's base yard is located, near the Diamond Head tennis courts. He also attended Leeward Community College for awhile. Takasane is divorced, but has two adult children -- a son and a daughter. He lives in Mililani.
Title: Tree trimming supervisor
Job: Supervises a crew of four tree trimmers for the city's Division of Urban Forestry
What is your job title?
Answer: I'm a tree trimming supervisor.
Q: For whom? In what department?
A: For the Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Urban Forestry. (Laughter)
Q: Yeah, that's such a cool name.
A: Before it was "beautification." That was the old name.
Q: Do you know when they changed it (to Division of Urban Forestry)?
A: Not really. Five or six years ago, I think it was, when the Harris administration came in.
Q: How long have you been with the city Division of Urban Forestry?
A: Since 1976. Not very long. (Laughter)
Q: Do you know how many people are in the division overall?
A: There's a total of 52 employees, including the nursery division.
Q: How many people do you work with?
A: Under me, I get four.
Q: You work with a particular crew?
Q: Did you join the division in your current position?
Q: What were you doing before?
A: I started off as a groundsman in the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program. It was a federally funded program.
Q: In what department?
A: Same department. I didn't move from this place. I'm part of the furniture. (Laughter) I worked my way up from a groundsman to a truck driver, then an equipment operator --you drive the cherry picker and you trim the trees -- and then I moved up to the supervisor. So I started at the bottom and worked my up.
Q: What is your basic responsibility now?
A: My basic responsibility right now is to maintain the trees. We have other duties, like respond to emergencies, like if a tree falls, or a truck or a vehicle hits the tree. With our adverse weather that we have -- storms, hurricanes, like Hurricane Iwa and Iniki -- we were out working.
We also continually do educational things, where we're always trying to learn more things. We have training classes, to learn more about trees. I'm a certified tree worker, and we do have certified arborists that actually look at the trees, because, you know, sometimes we get sick or diseased trees, so it's not just going out and chopping down the tree. You have to learn how to trim the tree. There is a right way and a wrong way to trim a tree. Topping a tree is bad.
Q: Does your work take you all over the island?
A: Yeah, we maintain the whole island.
Q: How much time is spent in the field?
A: Basically we're out eight hours a day with the crew.
Q: What would be a typical day for you?
A: A typical day?
Q: Yeah, like what kind of work did you have to do today?
A: Actually, we had the crew out on Kapiolani Boulevard.
Q: Where along there?
A: It was kind of close to McKinley High School.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nathan Takasane says his work as a tree trimming supervisor takes him all over the island. Last week, his crew trimmed trees in front of the Lexus dealership on Kapiolani Boulevard while he took care of a phone call.
What were you doing there?
A: We were trimming all the trees over there.
Q: How often does a particular area like that have to be done?
A: We try to catch it at least once a year. On the other hand, I would say 99 percent of our tree trimming is done by contractors, so a lot of what we do is just catching hot spots.
Q: What kinds of tools do you and your crews use?
A: We run, like, a dump truck; they have a chipper, that shreds all the branches; we use chain saws, pole pruners, hand saws, clippers; we run stumpers.
Q: What's that?
A: A stumper is when you remove the tree, and it will come out and take out the stump. We also do sidewalk repairs. Like when the trees open up the sidewalks, we'll go in there and help the road division (the Department of Facility Maintenance) pull out the roots and fix the sidewalks.
Q: Does anybody in your crew go up in the trees?
A: Yeah, they go up in the bucket, the cherry lifts. On occasion, we have to go up in the tree. Especially in Waikiki, some of the guys have to go up in the trees and rip off the hangers.
Q: What are those?
A: Hangers are the loose branches or coconut fronds that are just hanging there after a strong wind. So we gotta take those down quick, because Waikiki has a lot of tourists and everything. But we have contractors do that, too.
Q: Do you ever get up in the trees yourself anymore?
A: I used to go up in the coconut trees to trim them. I used to do that. (Laughter)
Q: Who supervises the companies that the division contracts to trim trees?
A: Occasionally I will do that, but my supervisor is Clark Leavitt, and he's the one that does the contracting of all the work. Yeah, he's the man.
Q: Are you ever involved in picking the trees that get planted?
A: We're involved with the Christmas trees at City Hall. We take the tree out and we set it up at City Hall.
Q: I was just wondering if they consider how much trimming the new trees will need in the future after they plant them.
A: We do have a tree farm out in Waiawa, so we have to go out there sometimes to trim the trees back so we can move them before they plant them.
Q: Is there a particular kind of tree that predominates?
A: We work on every kind of tree. We do the street trees, we do all the parks that fall under our jurisdiction.
Q: Is your division the one responsible for having to remove the damaged wiliwili trees?
Q: How's that been going?
A: Actually, we're pretty much done, of all our wiliwilis. As for the state or other private, I don't know, but as for the county, we're pretty much caught up on it, and it was a lot.
Q: Do you guys do replanting, too?
A: We have a replanting plan. That's why all the trees in Waiawa. But that would fall under the nursery section; our job is just to remove it.
Q: What are they going to replace the wiliwili trees with?
A: I really don't know. Probably going to be narras and probably autographs. Those are the trees that we were trimming up there (at Waiawa, prior to them being planted).
Q: Are you ever called out on emergencies after regular hours?
A: Oh yeah. We're like 24/7. Never a dull day. Nothing like getting a call at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning.
Q: That would be for like what, for example?
A: Anything, like heavy storms, 'cause naturally trees are going to fall, so we have to go up to Tantalus or whatever. But it could also be a calm, nice day, but then we get a call that a car or truck banged it (a tree). Could be anything.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I like going out on the road. I enjoy working with my crew. They're really good guys. They're the ones that make me look good. To me, they're the backbone of the department, because they're the ones that physically do the job.
I also like my bosses over here. Mr. Clark, he's a really good guy. And we have a really good office staff.
Q: What do you like least?
A: What I don't like about it is the midnight calls, after 1 o'clock or 2 or 3 in the morning, You gotta wipe your eyes and get yourself awake.
Q: Are there ever any days when the weather is so bad that you just don't want to go outside?
A: (Laughter) Yeah, like the time that we had that 40 days of rain. But we still responded. That's our job.