Hawaii County Council meetings are a pleasure to attend. Environmental Management meetings are not.
The county clerk and his staff treat members of the public with respect and dignity and respect. The Environmental Management Commission chair and vice chair do not.
The County Council allows public testifiers to enjoy their constitutional rights of free speech. The EM commissioners do not.
The County Council provides a sound system which allows everybody in the room to hear everything that is said by all council members. The EM Commission does not. Therefore, the legislative branch of Hawaii County is serving the public, while the administrative branch is authoritarian.
Let’s call this “balance of power” — local-style.
But all is not lost: EM Commission meeting minutes are accurate and easy to read.
As a horse enthusiast born and raised on Hawaii Island, I have spent a great deal of the last 30 years at the Panaewa Equestrian Center. Therefore, when I learned of the proposed changes to the facility, in particular the removal of the beautiful monkeypod trees, I made it a priority to attend a meeting of concerned citizens on Jan. 21.
The meeting was attended by other concerned users, as well as tree and history enthusiasts.
The director and deputy director (James Komata) of Hawaii County Parks and Recreation were in attendance, as well as a couple County Council members.
The facility’s trees provide invaluable shade to the horses, as well as the people who spend time with them. They provide beauty, majesty, ambiance and make the facility comfortable on hot, sunny days. The trees are priceless treasures to the park and all who use it.
When Mr. Komata spoke at the meeting, it was to announce that four of the most critical shade trees were to be removed. The statement was presented as a final decision, reached with any public input.
Mr. Komata then provided feeble reasons for removal: He blamed the trees for mud, potential damage to a waterline, and finally causing required gutter maintenance of stable roofs. The mud is not bad — we do not complain of it, and is present in nonshaded areas, same as under the trees. Waterlines and roofs wear out with or without trees. Mature, healthy monkeypods are value-adding and cannot be replaced within a generation.
Mr. Komata also spoke of needing to make the facility complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I accept those renovations 100%, even if it requires removing a block of stabling.
There is ample space at the facility to accommodate needing parking stalls and wheelchair access without necessitating the removal of trees. My conclusion from the meeting is that the tree removal is being lumped into the ADA renovations just to confuse the public and users to expedite tree removal work. When arguments do not make sense, I become suspicious of “blowing smoke.”
Monkeypod as lumber has value. Is the motivation for removal to profit off the sale of the lumber?
Perhaps Mr. Komata’s real intention is to make the Panaewa Equestrian Center unenjoyable, limiting its use, and therefore making a case for closure of the center altogether.
This facility is public and owned by us all. If you have not appreciated its beauty (thanks to the trees), please take a moment to visit. Enjoy a picnic in the shade, and meet some horses.
If your experience was enhanced by the trees, then please contact Parks and Rec at firstname.lastname@example.org or 808-961-8311, and please ask Mr. Komata about the true reason for removal — or better yet, please ask the trees to be left alone, for current and future generations to enjoy.