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Kihei Monkey Pod Tree Removal Plans Cut Short

Residents and arborist committee ask for exemption for exceptional trees. “I don’t think we have ever taken a sidewalk out.”

March 24, 2011
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez

Reports reveal that Peter A. Brinsmade introduced the monkey pod tree to Hawai‘i in 1847. One of the two seedlings he brought to the Islands following a trip to Europe was planted in Honolulu and the other at Koloa on Kaua‘i.

A curious aspect of Hawai‘i monkey pod history is the story that Mark Twain planted one of the trees in 1866 during a visit to Waiohinu on Hawai‘i Island. A monument to that effect still stands today.

Regardless of how they got here and no matter who planted them, monkey pods are the center of a growing chorus of criticism in Kīhei against plans by Maui County to remove four mature monkey pods which have reportedly grown roots that threaten the Maui Schooner Resort parking lot, an adjoining sidewalk and the integrity of South Kīhei Road.

Article Photos

Maui County’s plans to remove four monkey pod trees fronting the Maui Schooner Resort on South Kīhei Road and replace them with a species more appropriate for the space have been postponed until the Maui County Council determines whether or not to accept the recommendation of the Maui County Arborist Committee to designate the trees as “Exceptional Trees.” The committee believes this status will protect the trees from destruction under the rules of the Maui County Charter.

Photo: Debra Lordan

The protest to protect these four “bad boy” trees is not a unique event. A quick perusal on the Internet reveals headlines about similar situations around the country: “Residents protest tree removal from Capitol Hill,” “Cambridge residents to protest removal of Gilmore Street shade,” “Neighbors protest tree removal at Alma Plaza in Palo Alto,” and “Tree Battle: Seattle Schools Cutting Down Trees, Neighbors Protest.”

Maui is not alone in its quest to save the trees. And now, it appears that plans by the county to remove the offending monkey pods have been cut short.

At a community meeting held by County Councilmember Don Couch at Kīhei Charter School on Monday, March 14, not one of the 35 people in attendance was willing to accept the demise of the trees except Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Patrick Matsui and Public Works Director David Goode.

“We are responsible for the trees,” said Matsui without equivocation, citing concerns about the uneven sidewalk at the tree’s location and the potential for “trip-and-fall” injury lawsuits.

“As far as the trees, we work at the direction of the Parks Department,” said Goode, putting a little distance between his department and those who made the initial decision that the trees must go.

Asked if the sidewalk could be removed, Goode said, “It has crossed my mind. I don’t think we have ever taken a sidewalk out.” He also noted that it might violate federal ADA regulations concerning public access for the handicapped.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of action taken by the Maui County Arborist Committee, which voted unanimously to name the trees as “Exceptional Trees.” The committee requested that the Maui County Council accept this designation, and believe this will protect the trees from destruction under the rules of the Maui County Charter.

“The meeting went well and was very civil,” said Councilman Couch. “I think we made some progress tonight.”

But everything is on hold until the Maui County Council determines whether or not to accept the recommendation of the Arborist Committee.

 
 

 

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