Plants along Kuhio removed for safety
About three or four years ago, the city tore up Kuhio Avenue and took away our emergency lane to install beautification -- widening sidewalks, planting trees and grass. When it got finished, the irrigation system between Seaside and Kaiulani avenues never worked, and all the grassy areas and many palm trees died. In recent weeks they began filling in many of the grassy areas and putting concrete in. But we were told the irrigation system that was broken was recently fixed. So why can't they put the grass back in and replant the trees? The Diamond Head and Ewa ends of Kuhio where the irrigation works, it looks beautiful and adds to the ambience of Waikiki. What about the middle part?
Answer: It was a matter of safety over aesthetics, according to Eugene Lee, director of the city Department of Design and Construction.
The Kuhio Avenue beautification project under Mayor Jeremy Harris continued to pose problems even after 86 of 350 trees planted for beautification were removed in 2005.
The large number of trees, plus construction of a median, made it difficult for large vehicles to maneuver, blocked access for emergency vehicles and created hazards for pedestrians and motorists, according to the Hannemann administration.
In this go-round, Lee said the landscaped areas in question suffered not only from a broken irrigation system, but also pedestrians trampling on the grass because of the narrowness of the sidewalk.
"The original design did not take into account the off- and on-loading of passengers from buses and taxis, shade from existing trees and buildings, and, in some cases, the volume of pedestrian traffic," he said.
Consequently, the grass either could not grow or had a difficult time recovering. In many of the landscaped areas, the bare soil led to erosion, water puddles and tripping hazards, Lee said.
While the irrigation lines have since been fixed, the matter of pedestrian safety remained a concern.
So "in the interest of safety and the futility of trying to maintain the grassing in this high-pedestrian-traffic areas, we believe the prudent thing to do was to widen the sidewalk and narrow down the grassed areas," he said.
Lee said seven trees damaged during the December-January rainstorms were removed this year, while another tree near Nahua Street was removed because it was under a large existing tree and not growing.
The paving work between Uluniu and Launiu streets is expected to be completed by June at a cost to the city of about $180,000. Lee said the irrigation work and landscaping "adjustments" are being done by others.
The action was agreed to by various city departments as well as the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, he said.
"While I agree that landscaping does add to the ambience of Waikiki, safety concerns prevail in such matters," Lee said.
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