State: ‘Kanaka garden’ at Wailoa park must be removed by 5 p.m. today

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Officer Lawrence Terlep Jr. with the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources serves a cease-and-desist notice to Gene Tamashiro and activists peacefully protesting in front of the King Kamehameha statue Tuesday in Hilo. DLNR spokesperson Dan Dennison recorded the exchange.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Activists react after receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the Department of Land and National Resources in Wailoa State Recreation Area in Hilo.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The number of plants in the “kanaka garden” at the Wailoa park has expanded each day on the lawn fronting the King Kamehameha statue in Hilo.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Gene Tamashiro reacts as Officer Lawrence Terlep Jr. of the Department of Land and National Resources explains the cease-and-desist notice to activists peacefully protesting in front of the King Kamehameha statue in Hilo on Tuesday.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The number of plants in the “kanaka garden” at the Wailoa park has expanded each day on the lawn fronting the King Kamehameha statue in Hilo.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald An activist reads the cease-and-desist notice from the Suzanne Case, chairwoman of the Department of Land and National Resources in front of the King Kamehameha Statue in Hilo on Tuesday.

  • TAMASHIRO

The state set a 5 p.m. deadline today for activists who have taken over a portion of Wailoa River Recreation Area in Hilo and planted a “kanaka garden” — as was done in 2012 and 2013 — to remove the plantings and other items or have them hauled away by Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers.

Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers delivered a cease-and-desist order signed by DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case late Tuesday morning.

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According to the DLNR, the notice was taped on a sign the group put up by the statue of Kamehameha the Great. Another was presented to Gene Tamashiro, the group’s leader, and a third was posted in a small encampment near the garden.

The Tribune-Herald was present when DOCARE Officer Lawrence Terlep Jr. presented Tamashiro with a copy of the document signed by Case.

Tamashiro also presented Terlep a stapled package of documents, which included a photocopied story from Tuesday’s Tribune-Herald about the group’s occupation and a document on letterhead from the Hawaiian Kingdom Governance Authority with the headline “Preliminary Injunction: Investigation and Order to Cease and Desist.”

The exchange was peaceful. Terlep accepted the document after he served the notice to Tamashiro, whose group claims the Wailoa park sits on crown land deeded to the Hawaiian people by Kamehameha III.

“You have until 5 o’clock (Wednesday) afternoon to remove your items. If they’re not removed by then, they’ll be treated as abandoned. And then, we’ll come in and remove them,” Terlep told Tamashiro and others in the small group of activists present.

Terlep then turned to leave with the small contingent of officers who accompanied him, plus DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison, who photographed the encounter.

“Don’t go yet, gentlemen. You’ve gotta honor your oath,” Tamashiro said as the officers left. “Don’t just walk away. Because I have evidence that if Suzanne, if she does not prove that she has superior title, then the war crimes continue. And don’t be a part of that. Hold her accountable to her oath.”

According to the DLNR, the kanaka garden planted by the group consists of between 50 and 60 taro plants and banana trees across a football field-sized area in the popular park and noted that the group doesn’t have permits for planting or erecting signs at Wailoa. The plantings have increased daily since Sunday.

In a statement, the department noted that Tamashiro was cited in 2013 “after similar illegal areas at Wailoa.”

“No matter their professed claims of ownership, this recreation area and all other state parks belong to all of Hawaii for the enjoyment by residents and visitors,” said DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla. “Park users have expressed concerns that members of this group are ignoring county and state mandates to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

About a dozen people were present when the DLNR arrived. The group claims there were about 75 or so present when the “occupation” began Sunday.

According to DLNR, DOCARE is working closely with the Division of State Parks to return the area to public usage.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth, whose office sits slightly above the park and has what he describes as a partial view obscured by trees, said he went to the park Monday and spoke with Tamashiro.

“I just had a couple of minutes, so I went down there to say hello. He was happy that I went down there,” Roth said. “He wanted to go off on his tangent. And I just reminded him, you know, that this is not a county park, and I had no jurisdiction over the park. I told him it’s a state park, and he said, ‘No, you have to prove jurisdiction … .’

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“My belief is you can disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable,” Roth said, describing the conversation.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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