State Department of Land and Natural Resources staff Thursday morning removed dozens of taro and banana trees planted set up by activists at Wailoa River State Recreation Area.
The department said officers from the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement stood watch as a crew from the Division of State Parks removed the plants from the area prior to the park’s opening at 7 a.m. Supervisors estimated several hundred plants were pulled from the ground and trucked to the University of Hawaii at Hilo School of Tropical Agriculture to be replanted.
Officers also removed a “Kanaka Garden” sign that detailed the groups claims of ownership of the property as well as several flags that had been erected at the park’s main entrance. Several occupiers stood with flags in hand as trucks carrying the plants passed.
The “Kanaka Garden” was planted within the last week by a group claiming to have jurisdiction over the state land, the department said in a prepared statement.
Sixty-four-year-old Gene Tamashiro of Hilo, the group’s leader, was cited by DOCARE officers for violating three Hawaii Administrative Rules outlined in a cease-and-desist order that was delivered Tuesday. He is scheduled to be in court Feb. 19 to answer to charges of leaving abandoned property on public lands, unauthorized use of state lands for agriculture use, and introducing plants onto public property.
Officers also contacted two women who initially refused to leave the park, but they eventually left on their own accord.
The department added Tamashiro and several others were cited in 2013 on similar charges following an illegal planting operation at the Wailoa park.
Crews will return to the park later Thursday to assess any damage, which could lead to additional civil penalties against the people who planted the garden, the state said. State Parks workers will also return in the coming days to cover holes created during the planting.