Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unauthorized tree cutting near Heeia State Park

Question: There is a man who is apparently homeless and possibly mentally challenged who is destroying the trees along the roadside around the bridge between Kaneohe and Heeia State Park and from the park to Heeia Kea Harbor. He's also built rails, structures and corrals and painted bridge abutments. I've complained to the Mayor's Office a dozen times, called police and talked to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and couple of other organizations and nobody seems concerned. Can you help?

Answer: Officials know about the man, but stopping him apparently is another matter.

We received a similar complaint in February, about a homeless man whacking away at trees and shrubs in that area. At that time, both state and city officials told us the plants were not under either's jurisdiction.
City officials disclaimed responsibility again, saying it knows about the damage only anecdotally, because Kamehameha Highway and adjoining land are state-owned.

Initially, a spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources said both the divisions of State Parks and Boating and Ocean Recreation knew about the man, but that he had not caused any problems on property under their jurisdiction.

This time, a State Parks maintenance supervisor was sent to check the areas in question. Some trees and brush, including mangrove, were cut on State Parks land on the makai side of Kamehameha Highway, said spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

But, there was an upside.
"Although the cuts made by a machete don't look good, they did clear branches away from the roadway," Ward said.
Aside from that, parks staff haven't been "able to determine when the person is cutting and how often," she said, so enforcement officers have been asked to find him "and ask him to stop doing this."

What if he doesn't stop? "We just have to take it one step at a time" and can't speculate on "what ifs," Ward said.
A police officer searched the area recently in response to our query and did not see any sign of the man or even any cut trees, said a spokeswoman for the Honolulu Police Department.

Meanwhile, the structures and "corrals" between the park and long bridge on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway are on land that belongs to the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
"We are aware of this person," said Chris Sadayasu, HCDA's community outreach officer.
But, HCDA does not have an enforcement arm and was not able to protect its Heeia property from trespassers and other problems.

However, this year, HCDA and the nonprofit group Kako'o ' Oiwi agreed on a 38-year lease for 405 acres of HCDA land in Heeia, for the Heeia Wetlands Restoration Project, Sadayasu said.

"Kako'o ' Oiwi is aware of (the man in question) and doing their best to make sure that he doesn't damage HCDA property," Sadayasu said.

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