Two recently drafted city resolutions meant to be an agreement between opposing sides of the construction project at Sherwood Forest are drawing criticism from community members.
One resolution “nullifies” most of the original Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Master Plan introduced in 2012, which included a $32 million sports complex and a 470-stall parking lot, only allowing “in some form” the completion of Phase I of the plan, a 4-acre, $1.34 million project that would have included a multipurpose field and an 11-stall parking lot.
The other would rename Sherwood Forest, also known as Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, to Hunananiho Cultural and Historical Park.
The resolutions were announced after a handful of meetings between city officials and representatives of Save Our Sherwoods (SOS), the nonprofit that has led the movement to stop construction at the park since early last year. Those meetings took place between October and Jan. 13, when the resolutions were announced during a neighborhood meeting in Waimanalo.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Managing Director Roy Amemiya and SOS board members Kalani Kalima and Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo were at the center of those meetings.
But a Jan. 27 email from Friends of Sherwood Forest — not to be confused with SOS — insisted that the city plans “to install two sports fields, put in a paved parking lot (including bus parking), and complete the oversized water infrastructure they originally planned.”
Maureen Harnisch, who is opposed to construction, said the resolutions are vague and would allow more of Phase I to be completed.
“The language is ambiguous, and it leaves room for them to do whatever they want to. … If they didn’t intend to build a sports field, why didn’t they say, ‘We don’t intend to do that’?” she said.
Harnisch is among several plaintiffs, including SOS, in an ongoing lawsuit filed against the city on Sept. 26 regarding the project. It alleges the city did not adequately address potential congestion and traffic problems in the community and also failed to recognize Sherwood Forest’s cultural importance and listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Such “ambiguous” language includes a section of a resolution that says, “Halting the Phase I … would still require installation of permanent ground cover, a water line and irrigation system, placement of topsoil, fine grading, and planting and maintenance of ground cover.”
Amemiya said Jan. 30 that there will still be some kind of field, although it is not clear whether sports would be permitted. He also said a modified parking lot that would be more conducive to allowing cultural activities and more native plants in the park would be constructed.
At the neighborhood board meeting, he said that work would involve “bringing in a lot of soil, putting in irrigation, planting grass (and) native Hawaiian trees.”
Though SOS has cleared a campsite at the Sherwood Forest gate that had been up for months, at least two opponents of further construction camped at the site this week. Honolulu police spoke with people at the site regarding park and free-speech rules Thursday morning.
The city has not released an official timeline for Phase I to continue. It has been on hold since October.
The resolutions have created some division among project opponents. Although all are opposed to a sports field, some believe the resolutions still would allow the city to build one, while SOS believes they would minimize construction and make way for a cultural park at Sherwood Forest — the home of over 90 ancestral bones, or iwi kupuna, some of which are estimated to be over 1,500 years old.
“We’re not for a parking lot. We’re for temporary water feeding for (the space) to be green again,” said Kukana Kama-Toth, a member of the SOS and Waimanalo neighborhood boards. “We are, though, wanting to have a heritage park. … It’s the beginning. It’s our Plymouth Rock.”
“Nowhere in the resolution does it say that they’re building a sports field,” Kamakea-Ohelo said, adding that he and Kalima tried to cut Phase I entirely but that it would not be possible.
“Let’s say the best-case scenario is we get them to remove everything. Who’s going to pay for that if there’s no funding? That’s why Phase I is still in the resolution,” he said.
Including all sides
On Jan. 30 Caldwell submitted the resolutions to the City Council, but Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson, whose district includes Waimanalo, would not commit to introducing them until potential negotiations that include all sides take place.
He said the meetings between Caldwell and self- appointed members of SOS were “insulting” to the community and left out supporters of the project, including himself.
“The two resolutions come from an illegitimate process,” Anderson said Saturday. “Love it or hate it, the original master plan resulted from a recognized, legitimate process.”
Anderson said he found out about the meetings after they started, and when he asked the Caldwell administration that he be allowed to participate, he was denied. He said he was invited to the last meeting but was given the wrong date.
“The most important takeaway from those meetings, I think, was that I was told I couldn’t attend until the last meeting, and for whatever reason the supporters were not part of the discussion,” he said.
Caldwell was not available for comment on Anderson’s absence in the meetings, but city spokesman Alex Zannes said in a statement Thursday that the meetings were meant to deescalate tensions between the city and opponents of the construction. Those tensions peaked Sept. 26 when 28 protesters were arrested at Sherwood Forest for blocking police from escorting a small excavator from entering the project site.
“The Mayor and Managing Director agreed to meet with SOS in order to try to accomplish this objective. … The resolutions introduced to the City Council are a part of this effort,” Zannes said.
Amemiya said Anderson was not invited to the meetings but said he was not aware that Anderson asked to participate.
During the neighborhood board meeting, Anderson invited supporters and opponents to continue discussing the resolutions. He said Kamakea-Ohelo had agreed to attend a meeting on Jan. 18 but did not. Anderson said he has not been able to reach either Kamakea-Ohelo or Kalima since.
SOS and city officials hope Anderson can introduce the resolutions, which would give an opportunity for public testimony.
“The resolutions are put out there so the community can weigh in,” Amemiya said.
Anderson said the resolutions are sitting on his desk but that he is under no obligation to introduce them.
Meanwhile, another draft of the resolution to nullify the master plan, including Phase I, also removes language pertaining to irrigation and the placement of topsoil and has been sent to all City Council members, Harnisch said.