Kokua Line: Lack of water killing trees in Ala Moana Boulevard median
Question: Large monkeypod trees along the Ala Moana Boulevard median in front of Ala Moana Center have now died, and most have been severely cut back.
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Question: Large monkeypod trees along the Ala Moana Boulevard median in front of Ala Moana Center have now died, and most have been severely cut back. It looks like a scene from a World War I battlefield. I am told that the trees died from long-term failure of the irrigation systems. Apparently, the state owns this street, but the city planted the trees about 15 years ago. There seems to be a dispute about who should take care of these trees. Many more trees appear to be under stress and might also die. As a matter of urgency, water trucks need to come and water the entire median strip to prevent them all from dying during the dry season. Who is responsible for this catastrophic failure to protect all these big, beautiful trees?
Answer: Formerly majestic canopy trees Ewa of Atkinson Drive, on the median between the mall and the beach park, appear to be in the worst shape. The city isn’t planning to truck in water, at least not as of deadline Thursday, when we received the following response from Ross Sasamura, director of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance:
“The median strip is under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT). However, the city conducts tree trimming, arborist inspections, and grass maintenance in the median as the trees and irrigation system were installed for a city project under a prior administration.
“We believe damage to the city irrigation system has resulted in the current condition, and are working with HDOT to determine the best course of action to ensure a healthier situation for the plant life. One of the possible solutions is to use synthetic turf for the once grassy areas, and the Department of Facility Maintenance is researching this possibility. Drip lines could then be used to irrigate the trees.
“Following a recent assessment, it was determined that two of the trees are dead and are slated for removal by a city contractor. They will be replaced with the same species of tree.”
As mentioned, these trees were planted before Mayor Kirk Caldwell took office. However, the current administration has affirmed again and again the importance of Honolulu’s urban forest.
The Caldwell administration’s effort to involve the community in plans to improve Ala Moana Regional Park (ouralamoanapark.com) emphasized shade trees, particularly monkeypods, and specifically on the Ala Moana Boulevard median just outside the park’s boundaries.
Its “Community Action 9-Point Plan for Ala Moana Boulevard Improvements” (808ne.ws/actionplan) describes large monkeypod trees in the median as essential to a “pleasant shaded pedestrian causeway across (the boulevard) and into Ala Moana Park.”
The action plan says that monkeypods provide Oahu’s residents and visitors the most environmental, economic and quality- of-life benefits of any tree on the island. Their outsize contributions stem partly from their large size, according to the analysis, which considered carbon reduction, air quality improvement, stormwater reduction, beautification, shade, privacy and other factors.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.