Mayor rooted to Magic Island trees
He says none will be removed while calling criticism unwarranted
Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday took a firm stance against relocating trees on Magic Island, which a new local nonprofit environmental group sought for a planned festival next year.
At a news conference yesterday, Hannemann also criticized the Outdoor Circle, another environmental group, for overreacting to the proposed idea of removing 15 trees in the middle of Magic Island, which he says was never seriously considered by the city.
"The Outdoor Circle has really overreacted here," Hannemann said. "They've taken an issue and sensationalized it to a point where there's a lot of confusion out there that is impugning on the reputation of Honolulu being a Tree City USA."
Bob Loy, the Outdoor Circle's director of environmental programs, said they received about 10 to 20 calls from residents angered over the prospect of any trees at Magic Island being removed.
"We believe that Outdoor Circle exists to protect these types of resources," Loy said. "When the city has been in conversations for many months, we think it's not an overreaction to stand up and try to protect the public resources. We feel that we would not be doing our job."
Earlier this year, Blue Planet Festival -- a new local organization dedicated to promoting sustainability and clean energy -- met with city officials about possibly uprooting and relocating trees that could block a large stage in their planned four-day summit and concert.
When Outdoor Circle members heard about the plan, they asked city officials to not remove any trees because it would create a barren area in one of the city's most popular parks.
But Blue Planet Festival producer Dirk Fukushima said yesterday that the event, tentatively set for April 3-6, is still in the planning stages and that the group has not decided on a location. The organization hopes to host a two-day summit with environmental experts and government officials and a two-day music festival that will include nationally known artists.
"We're working hard to make this a reality," Fukushima said. "We're working hard to put on a world-class event. Magic Island is, of course, a beautiful place, but it's still premature to even commit to that."
Hannemann said he'd like the city to be a co-sponsor of this event because he believes in the group's mission and is dedicated to sustainability. However, if the city does approve the event, it would either be at Magic Island without removing trees or at another venue, he said.
Fukushima declined to say whether they are thinking of other locations or a date when they will set a location.
Lester Chang, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said regardless of the event, the city might remove five or six trees at Magic Island because they have been heavily damaged by people dumping their hot barbecue coals. In accordance with city policy, replacement trees would be planted.
Despite the disagreement over this event, both city and Outdoor Circle officials said they still plan on working together on future projects involving tree removals.