Hilo residents are encouraged to contact police with any information about an act of vandalism at the Lili‘uokalani Gardens teahouse.
A large graffiti tag sprayed across one wall of the teahouse, which was built in 1997, was discovered Friday morning. A similar tag was found on the park’s bathroom.
“I won’t call it graffiti or tags or street art,” said K.T. Cannon-Eger, president of the Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens. “This is vandalism.”
Although the graffiti on the bathrooms was quickly painted over, the vandalism to the teahouse will be more difficult to remove. The building was constructed using aged, unpainted wood and will have to be scrubbed off, Cannon-Eger said.
Roxcie Waltjen, Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation director, said much of the wood used in the teahouse’s construction was imported from Japan and requires a special cleaning solution and soft scouring pads.
The building, called Shoroan, is the second teahouse built in the park. The original building, built in 1972, was a gift from the Urasenke School of Tea in Japan for the Urasenke Hilo Association to practice traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
The original teahouse was destroyed by arson in 1994. It was rebuilt and opened in 1997 at a new location in the gardens.
“It’s a bad way to try to express yourself, by painting over a cultural landmark,” Waltjen observed.
The Friends of Lili‘uokalani Gardens will host a maintenance day today until noon, with some manpower being diverted to cleaning the graffiti. Cannon-Eger said the event will welcome the “time, talent or treasure of anyone willing to help.”
A similar vandalism incident occurred at the teahouse last year, Cannon-Eger said, although the tags involved were much smaller than the one that appeared Friday. The aftermath of that incident took three days to clean.
Parks and Recreation is requesting anybody who might have seen suspicious activity at the park Thursday night or Friday morning to report that information to the police, Waltjen said, adding that, should the perpetrator be identified, the department “definitely will prosecute.”
Apart from the teahouse, Waltjen said vandalism has been a growing problem at parks throughout the county and can be difficult to enforce.
Cannon-Eger described a list of various cases of vandalism that recently occurred at Lili‘uokalani Gardens alone, including graffiti on the park’s bridges, damage to the stone lanterns and more.
“It’s very disturbing,” Cannon-Eger said. “Most people in the community have such a special place in their hearts for the gardens. Those who don’t, they ruin it for everyone.”
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