By Rob Shikina and Rosemarie Bernardo
Kailua, HI (May 21, 2009)- Dozens of upset Kailua residents demanded answers from the city yesterday about why several royal poinciana trees were cut down last week near Kailua District Park. “The way the city handles the cutting down and pruning of trees is appalling and disrespectful,” said Lisa Kelso, an architect and Kailua resident for more than two decades. “They’re billing this project as a replacement plan. I think that it was actually a removal plan that metamorphosed into a replanting plan (when they were questioned).”
The city responded to questions from some 60 residents at a meeting about poinciana trees, some at least 40 years old, that were cut down. The controversy started earlier this month when a contractor hired by the city to remove the trees cut down 10 of 20 royal poinciana and other trees without obtaining proper permits or notifying the city or the public.
The city stopped the contractor from continuing, but Stan Oka, of the Division of Urban Forestry, said the remaining trees eventually will have to come down. Oka said the trees along South Kainalu Drive were diseased and would be replaced with hardier Queen’s Hospital White trees, more commonly known as rainbow shower trees.
Some residents objected, insisting the cut trees be replaced with royal poinciana. They demanded to know the replanting plan and called for better communication with the city. “These trees are a heritage. They’re a logo and part of Kailua and to replace these trees with something else is unacceptable,” said Dr. Jed Hirota, a 30-year Kailua resident.
Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the department will consider the feedback and look at using the poinciana as a replacement, “knowing that it’s a problematic tree.” During a meeting yesterday morning between city officials and about 20 concerned residents, city arborists said the weaker royal poinciana trees could pose a hazard to motorists and pedestrians.
Residents noted the royal poinciana trees bloom in the summer with scarlet-colored blossoms. Oka said the shower trees have white-and-yellow-colored scented flowers and grow stronger and taller than poinciana trees. Joan Fleming, president of the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle, said she was pleased that city arborist Austin Braaten showed what the problems are with the trees and what’s being done about it. The organization was notified of the diseased trees in the area.
Honolulu Star Bulletin- Tree cuts in Kailua criticized
KHON Channel 2- Kailua Residents Urge City to Give Details on Tree Removal Project