H-3 protesters few but vociferous

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Taking sunrise as their cue, H-3 trekkers move beneath an overpass and head to the starting line yesterday morning.

Reactions to protesters' concerns vary from deference to indifference

By Linda Aragon

Protesters shouted "Shame on you!" at runners and walkers who exited shuttle buses and headed for the starting line of yesterday's Great Trans Koolau Trek.

Early in the morning, nearly every race participant arriving at the Kamehameha Highway entrance came face to face with a group of about 60 protesters who handed out fliers and asked that the runners take the last opportunity to boycott the race.

"You're walking on our mothers on Mother's Day," protesters shouted.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Protesters near the Kamehameha Highway intersection of the freeway were up with the dawn as well.

Opponents of the freeway, which connects Kaneohe Marine Corps Base to Pearl Harbor, say its route runs through heiau and burial sites on both the Windward and the Halawa Valley sides. They say Hawaiian religion regards Halawa Valley as the sacred site of Papahanamoku, Mother Earth, who gave birth to the Hawaiian Islands.

"Everybody's come to say, 'Respect the sacredness of this place,' and that it's not pono (right) for people to run here," said one of the protesters, Nalani Minton.

Some runners carried ti leaves for protection. Others disregarded the protesters' concerns.

Pam Anderson, a 23-year-old of Hawaiian ancestry, said she doesn't agree with many of the protesters, who are also Hawaiian. "It's a shame because Hawaiians should know that this freeway is already built. If you look at it, the whole island is sacred."

Her mother, Jennie Anderson, said: "The whole island is a heiau. The whole island is a special place."

David Haight, 37, from Kaneohe, said although he understands the protesters' concerns, he couldn't miss the chance to run on the freeway.

"I give them (the protesters) credit because they're standing up for their beliefs. But I wanted to say, "Hey, I had the opportunity to run this one time,'" Haight said.

Patrek Kapeli, 45, an avid runner, decided to turn in his number and boycott the race. "It doesn't feel right for me to do the Halawa run. It's a choice," he said.

An exact count of the participants was not available last night. However, race officials estimated more than 17,200 participated.

Dawn Wasson, 53, caused a stir when she broke through a line of law enforcement officers in an attempt to carry her pahu drum to the starting line. She only made it a few feet past the restricted entrance area when officers stopped her. She plopped herself and her drum down. Wasson said she wanted to walk a mile farther to the starting line so she could chant as the runners started the race.

"Protesting is a spiritual act," Wasson said. "You bring awareness to the desecration."

Wasson was one of five women who camped for several months in 1992 at Hale o Papa, a Halawa women's heiau, in protest of the freeway's construction.

A small group of protesters met some runners as they entered the first tunnel on the Windward side, know as Hospital Rock because it's behind the Kaneohe State Hospital.

Race participant Valerie Wheadon, 47, of downtown Honolulu, said when she arrived at the first tunnel, "There were three people that were standing up shouting do we know we're walking on people's graves," she said. "It makes you think."

Other runners encountered chanters in Halawa Valley who had camped out in a heiau below the freeway the night before.

Rhonda Davidson-Alley, 36, of Agana, Guam, said she wasn't aware of the significance the area had to the protesters.

"Actually, I was surprised to see them. I thought they were here to cheer on the runners, until I read their signs - quite the opposite," she said.

"I guess I'd like to learn a little more behind what all the controversy's about."

H-3 nears finish;
is it boon or bane?

Proponents say it will cut traffic;
opponents say it has
destroyed sacred sites

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Protester Dawn Wasson is stopped from going onto the race course yesterday. She later rejoined the other protesters.

By Linda Aragon

Although thousands of runners dashed across the H-3 freeway yesterday, traffic won't roll over the interstate for seven more months.

The 16.1-mile freeway, expected to be completed in December, is the last link in the nation's 42,500-mile President Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate System, and the last of its kind planned for Hawaii, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marilyn Kali.

Thirty years in the making, H-3 is expected to be a relief to some daily commuters, while it's a devastation to some land and cultural preservationists.

"We really needed that highway," said Barbara Matsukado, a Department of Education worker who lives and works in Kaneohe.

She said she purposely sought a job that was not in town because she didn't want to face traffic jams on a daily basis.

The freeway's cost of $1.2 billion makes it the most expensive freeway in the state.

Kali said federal funds covered 90 percent of the cost.

Its runs through Haiku Valley on the Windward side to Halawa Valley, linking Kaneohe Marine Corps Base to Pearl Harbor Naval Base.

Although some have called the freeway unnecessary, Kali said it is expected to relieve one-third of the traffic that flows on the Pali and Likelike highways.

"By the year 2010, we're anticipating 120,000 daily trans-Koolau trips," Kali said.

Since 1970, H-3 has been fervently opposed by environmentalists, who objected to the clearing of vegetation that is home to native plants and animals. Native Hawaiians have also opposed the freeway's route through sacred burial and cultural sites.

A group won the fight in 1976 when the freeway's original plans through Moanalua Valley were stopped by a federal court of appeals.

After a four-year battle, the court ruled that Moanalua, the site of a petroglyph discovery, deserved historic protection.

The freeway's plans were then moved and construction began in Halawa Valley, which is considered by others to be the sacred site of Papahanamoku, Mother Earth, who gave birth to the Hawaiian Islands.

Toni Auld Yardley was among a group of women who occupied a women's heiau in Halawa in protest of the freeway's construction.

Yesterday, she explained how the freeway divides the women's heiau from the men's.

"We want efforts to go to really identifying what's in here as a cultural perspective and use this as a classroom for our children's children," Yardley said.

Since construction began, the freeway has been realigned three times, Kali said.

In 1986, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs sued to keep the freeway from running through a site of ancient terraces on the Kaneohe side, near the Likelike Highway.

On the Halawa side, the freeway's alignment was altered two times. The first time was to avoid a luakini, or temple. The last realignment was in 1992, when the state agreed to change the freeway's course to avoid the women's heiau, Hale O Papa.

Since construction began, H-3 has had a bout of tragedies.

In 1990, a foreman, Orlindo Domingo, 52, died and three workers were injured when they fell 60 feet after the 47-ton girder they were standing on collapsed.

In January 1995, Steven Ouderkirk, 28, was crushed to death when a concrete wall weighing several tons fell and pinned him against a boulder near a Halawa stream bed wall at the entrance of the Halawa tunnel.

Last summer, four men were injured when four 90-foot girders collapsed in a domino effect. An investigation by the state Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Division did not pinpoint any causes for the collapse.

Eight other reported accidents include a helicopter that went down, an overturned crane, and a car that went off a temporary bridge. Five other injuries were reported.

"This freeway is cursed and wrong and it needs to be removed," said Laulani Teale, an opponent of the freeway, who three years ago gave birth to her son at the women's heiau.

"We're totally committed to the preservation and protection of the valley," Teale said.

Although the freeway is nearly completed and thousands of people ran in yesterday's Great Trans Koolau Trek, Teale said she will continue fighting the freeway's plans, "Until it is dismantled; that is what we wanted."

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