Aloha kiawe: Tree at Laaloa comes down over fears of falling

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KAILUA-KONA — What once provided a cover from the sun, may become a bench instead.

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KAILUA-KONA — What once provided a cover from the sun, may become a bench instead.

The 64-feet-tall kiawe that shaded the northern end of the parking lot in Laaloa Park with a 62-feet broad canopy is gone, removed after an arborist’s study found an “imminent risk of failure” that could cause the tree to fall.

The tree would probably fall to the north — a report by Mark L. O’Dell of Arborist Services LLC. stated — a likely danger to cars parked in those stalls and sending branches into Alii Drive.

So the idyllic spot to escape the summer’s rays is no more.

Tommy Mattos, maintenance supervisor for the park, told the company back in August that his staff saw large cracks in the trunk of the tree, raising concerns to visitors and traffic on Alii Drive.

On Aug. 27, O’Dell went to inspect the tree, which has a crotch 12 feet from the ground, where two main leaders head to the north and south. O’Dell wrote he found two cracks in the trunk. The one on the north side ran six inches below the crotch and went down six feet. The southern one started at the crotch and went all the way down.

He also found a crack in the north leader starting at nine feet from the ground and going up seven feet. The cracking was a result of a severed root and uneven growth in the canopy.

So on Tuesday, the parking lot was closed as workers used a crane and cherry pickers to safely bring down the kiawe.

The tree is bound to Waimea, where Kamuela Hardwoods, a company that specializes in “urban salvage” that uses trees growing in communities, will work to use as much as possible.

Alex Woodbury of the company was watching the removal.

Turning the tree into lumber is complicated by the kiawe’s twisting growth patterns, he said, which leads to inclusions and warpings not seen in straight-grained wood.

“It depends on how much character an artist is willing to work with,” he said.

The cracks in the tree may require the company to cut the trunks into rounds, he said. Hopefully, there will be enough to make slabs.

He lived in the area for years, going to Magic Sands regularly and remembers the tree.

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The parks department is working on more conversions in the park, and Woodbury hopes to return the tree as benches.

“We just hope we can pay proper homage to this tree,” he said.

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