One of the things we can do is to plant trees and to preserve, as much as possible, the trees we now have that make up our existing “urban forest,” a term that was first mentioned in the U.S. as early as 1894.
The federal Cooperative Forestry Act of 1978 offers a statutory definition of urban and community forestry: “Urban forestry means the planning, establishment, protection and management of trees and associated plants, individually, in small groups, or under forest conditions within cities, their suburbs and towns.”
Among the many challenges to maintaining and nurturing our urban forests are development pressures, poor choice of trees, root growth and poor soil conditions.
It is against this backdrop of science, community needs and passion for our trees that I held a community meeting recently to hear the thoughts of constituents regarding the possible cutting down of four monkey pod trees planted along the sidewalk running parallel to the Maui Schooner Resort on South Kīhei Road.
Maui County Arborist David Sakoda has determined that, in his view, the trees were planted in an area too small for them to continue growing unimpeded. In a statement released to the media he said, “The county regrets that this design conflict has created a loss of our urban forest canopy.”
Among the concerns about the trees are sidewalk damage caused by tree roots, sidewalk access for those in wheelchairs, potential damage to South Kïhei Road as the trees continue to mature and the potential for “trip-and-fall” lawsuits against the county if pedestrians are injured while walking on the sidewalk.
At the community meeting, we were joined by Director of Public Works David Goode and Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Patrick Matsui. These gentlemen heard passionate but respectful viewpoints on how the trees might be saved, which was the hope of everyone who attended the meeting.
Shortly before the Kīhei community meeting, the volunteer Maui County Arborist Committee voted to request that the County Council designate the monkey pods as “exceptional trees” and worthy of protection under the rules of the Maui County Code.
It is my goal to work with all parties to see if we cannot find some way to save these beautiful trees. Kïhei needs more, not fewer, trees.