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City to proceed with first phase of Sherwood Forest project

  • DENNIS ODA / SEPT. 28
                                Save Our Sherwoods held a news conference and rally at the entrance to Waimanalo Beach Park and Sherwood Forest in September to discuss a lawsuit seeking to halt the city’s development of the park.

    DENNIS ODA / SEPT. 28

    Save Our Sherwoods held a news conference and rally at the entrance to Waimanalo Beach Park and Sherwood Forest in September to discuss a lawsuit seeking to halt the city’s development of the park.

Honolulu city representatives announced Monday that the city would continue with the first phase of a contentious project to develop a section of Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, also known as Sherwood Forest, representing a loss for opponents who have voiced their opposition to the project for about a year.

The announcement came during a Waimanalo neighborhood board meeting at Waimanalo Elementary School.

Roy Amemiya Jr., the city’s managing director, was at the board meeting and said the first phase of the project, which appears on the 2012 Waimanalo Bay Beach Park master plan, will continue.

“We decided the best thing going forward was to continue with that phase,” Amemiya said.

The $1.43 million project is part of a 2012 Waimanalo Bay Beach Park master plan to develop the 74-acre Sherwood Forest, including the creation of hiking trails, a parking lot and a multipurpose field.

Opposition grew early in 2019, and the city later decided it would only continue with phase one of the project, which it said would cover around four acres and include an 11-stall parking lot and the multipurpose field. The original plan included the construction of a $32 million sports complex and a 470-stall parking lot.

Amemiya said that after several meetings with members of Save Our Sherwoods, including its president, Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo, an agreement was made to turn the site into “a cultural and historic park,” which includes changing its name to reflect that. Amemiya said tonight it’s not clear whether the field will be able to accommodate sports activities.

Though opponents up until today wanted nothing to be developed at the park, Kamakea-Ohelo addressed that the decision to continue is not what opponents wanted to hear, but he appeared optimistic with the decision to continue because of the introduction of two prepared city resolutions.

The first, if passed, would nullify the 2012 master plan past the first phase. The second involves the renaming of the park and converting it to a cultural and historic park.

“No worries guys, we got this,” he said. “This is the result of eight months of opposition to this plan, and here we are today.”

Amemiya said the city had to continue with the project.

“We had already done removal of trees and foliage. To leave it like that is unacceptable,” he said.

He reiterated that only the first phase of the project will be completed.

“We came to a meeting of the minds, and we started to talk about what could happen to that park,” Amemiya said. “Initially we were very far apart. I believe SOS’s position was just leave.”

The decision was not universally approved, and during the meeting some neighborhood board members expressed their concerns to city councilman Ikaika Anderson, whose jurisdiction covers Waimanalo, about the lack of effort to bring the community together.

Anderson is a long-time proponent of the project.

“There was no effort on your part to get the community together to have a resolution,” Kukana Kama-Toth, a neighborhood board member and board member for SOS, told Anderson.

Kama-Toth said the community had come together to discuss the project on their own since early 2019.

“I met with anyone who asked,” Anderson said in response. “I’ve absolutely been more than willing to meet with the folks here in the community if they asked.”

“As far as them continuing the projects, ʻaʻole—I don’t want that,” Kama-Toth said in an interview after the meeting ended. “As far our councilman, who happens to be my friend, not being present throughout this whole process and all of a sudden now wanting to do this medial thing with everybody, it kind of really upsets me.”

“In the absence of his presence or support over the past 10 months, our community has had to do its best to do it ourselves,” said Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, who is also a board member for Waimanalo as well as SOS, during an interview after the meeting.

The project has been on halt for months as the city and project opponents discussed how to proceed.

Opponents say the park is on the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a funerary. Archaeological digs have shown that 92 Hawaiian burials have been found at the park.

The confrontation peaked on Sept. 26 when 28 protesters were arrested for blocking a caravan of police vehicles escorting a small excavator from entering the park.

At least 60 officers were present, and a group of at least 20 officers used bicycles they arrived on as crowd control by separating the protesters on the road from demonstrators on the side.

Police carried many of the protesters to police vans. A judge dismissed the charges of all 28 protesters on Wednesday.

Prior to the arrests, construction equipment on-site was set on fire.

The project has been on hold since the arrests, with talks between the city and opponents ongoing since to determine how to proceed.

Opponents of the project have been steadfast in preventing any construction of the park. Initially, worries revolved around the development of the area, and neighbors were worried that the project would be a step in the overdevelopment of Waimanalo. They said that Kalanianaole Highway, the area’s main highway, has become heavily congested without development of the area.

Upon discovering that there may be ancestral Hawaiian bones in the area that could be directly affected along with the discovery of remains in the surrounding area, the movement to stop the project became increasingly cultural.

The Sept. 26 protest reflected that, as many protesters identified themselves as kiaʻi, or protectors. At one point a section of Kalanianaole Highway was lined with white crosses to represent ancestral bones.

A camp at the entrance of the park for opponents was set up prior to the arrests.

Archaeological monitoring has been done for the project with no remains being found for phase one of the project, but opponents want more thorough testing to be done to be sure.

The nonprofit Save Our Sherwoods and others filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the U.S. Department of the Interior in September, alleging that the city failed to adhere to federal land use controls, violated federal and state historic preservation law, conducted an inadequate Environmental Assessment, and used a flawed permit approvals process that distorted the primary and special purposes of the beach park.

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