MAKAWAO, Maui >> An association for a 19th-century Maui cemetery where several influential Hawaii figures are buried is suing federal and state agencies over a planned expansion project at a neighboring veterans’ cemetery.
The project will degrade the historic charm of Makawao Cemetery, where notable burials include Henry Perrine Baldwin, who co-founded what became one of Hawaii’s largest sugar plantations, according to the lawsuit that was filed last week in federal court.
“This historic cemetery, one of the oldest on the island of Maui, has marked the entrance to the town of Makawao for more than 130 years,” the lawsuit said. “It contains the burials of people important to the history of Maui and Hawaii, as well as members of the public, including veterans. The Makawao Cemetery inspires reverence and quiet reflection amidst a pastoral rural setting, evocative of an older Maui.”
A tall fence is among the project’s plans that would damage the aesthetics of the historic cemetery, Camille Lyons, the association’s president, said Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the state Office of Veterans Services declined to discuss the matter in litigation.
According to the lawsuit, expansion plans also include a paved parking lot, maintenance facility and landscaping “visually incompatible” with the Makawao Cemetery, which has co-existed with the Maui Veterans Cemetery for more than six decades. Plans also call for removing historic Cook Island pine trees.
The $6-million project shouldn’t move forward until complying with the National Historic Preservation Act, the lawsuit said.
“They’ve been very uncooperative and insist they want to construct what they want to construct,” plaintiffs’ attorney Isaac Hall said of the veterans agencies.
The association supports providing more burial space for veterans, Lyons said.
“We are not against the veterans,” she said. “We love the veterans. This is about the open public area in front of our cemetery where they want to put up a 6-foot chain-link fence.”
The Makawao Cemetery was dedicated in 1861 when the Makawao Union Church was built on it, the lawsuit said. The church was commissioned by Hawaiian Kingdom Minister of Interior Prince Lot Kapuaiwa, who later became King Kamehameha V.
Baldwin, the son of pioneer missionaries, and childhood friend Samuel Thomas Alexander became partners in the sugar business, leading to what would become Alexander & Baldwin Inc. — a corporation with $2.3 billion in assets, including more than 88,000 acres of land, according to the company’s website. Several Baldwin family members are also buried in the Makawao Cemetery.
The cemetery is open to the public for burials of any faith.