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Big Isle tries to deal with threatening trees

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:07 p.m. HST, Aug 12, 2013

HILO » A Hilo man has spent a year trying to do something about a fast-growing, invasive tree that looms over his home.

Daniel Grant-Johnson, 62, said he's worried the albizia tree, or its expansive branches, will topple down on someone.

"Limbs are always falling, when it storms, or it's windy," he told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald for a story today. "Just a few months ago, a limb fell and blocked the whole street. The county had to send guys out with chain saws to clear the road."

He added, "God forbid, someone could get really hurt."

For about a year, Grant-Johnson said he has worked to contact the owner of the property to cut the tree down, but he's had virtually no luck in getting a response. Hawaii County has also gotten involved by filing a lawsuit in June against the property owners. And a bill being considered would add unsafe flora to an ordinance governing responses to refuse and undergrowth on unoccupied lots.

"There needs to be some way for lot owners to be accountable for dangerous trees on their property," said bill sponsor County Councilman Zendo Kern.

The invasive species are among the fastest growing trees in the world, which can climb up to 60 feet, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Nicknamed in Hawaii, "junk trees," experts say huge branches, even whole trees, can easily fall.

Contacting absent property owners has been difficult, said Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic.

"We've had some cases where the county has had to hire somebody just to sit on a piece of property and wait for someone to come by," he said.

According to the lawsuit, the county's Department of Public Works hasn't heard from the defendant since January, after she was granted an extension to address the violation concerning the tree.

The Big Island Invasive Species Committee estimated it can cost $2,000 to $10,000 to remove an albizia tree.

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