Groups say not enough notice given for Honolulu tree removal

HONOLULU — Community groups and two Honolulu city councilors are upset by the city’s removal of trees from a municipal property, claiming the public was not given sufficient notice or information.

The city plans to replace 26 canopy trees that were uprooted from the Magic Island parking lot, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

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The city removed nine pink tecoma, seven monkeypod, six banyan, and four false Kamani trees.

Each of the trees needed to be replaced for valid reasons, “including health of the trees, structural integrity, and survivability,” city Design and Construction Director Mark Yonamine said.

The trees are expected to be replaced by 13 monkeypod and 13 hau trees.

The tree replacement is part of a $2.5 million project to repave the Magic Island parking lot, which is part of the city’s master plan for Ala Moana Regional Park.

Winston Welch, executive director of environmental group Outdoor Circle, said he believes the city moved forward with its plan without sufficient notification or consultation about the actions. His group has not formed a position on the project, he said.

There may be good reasons the city chose to remove the trees, “but we have no way of knowing that” because not enough detail was offered, Welch said.

The city issued a statement April 9 announcing the project was set to proceed four days later and would include complete surface repaving and restriping, new curbing, irrigation and plantings and replacement of damaged trees.

The project would also include “removal of tree roots causing pavement damage,” the statement said.

Groups joining Outdoor Circle’s concerns about the Magic Island removals included Save Ala Moana Beach Park Hui, Oahu Island Parks Conservancy, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, and the Hawaii Audubon Society.

City council members Tommy Waters and Ann Kobayashi also raised concerns about the tree removals.

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Kobayashi urged Mayor Kirk Caldwell to halt all tree removals at the park in a letter sent Tuesday.

Proposed changes to Ala Moana Regional Park have “generated great public concern regarding the welfare and condition of the park,” Kobayashi wrote. “Public notice should be provided when drastic changes, such as the removal of 26 trees, occur, especially when public access to the park is restricted.”

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