Popular Manoa garden shutting down

Popular Manoa garden shutting down
Richard Fassler
Richard Fassler

For more than two decades, the Lower Manoa Neighborhood Watch Garden has been a popular gathering place for area residents.

But now, the city says the McKinley Street oasis violates zoning laws and that's forcing organizers to shut it down.

"The (city) inspector said you have to remove this, you got to cut down that. Basically what they are talking about is the destruction of this garden," said Richard Fassler, who founded the garden and takes care of its daily upkeep.

"It's like taking a sledgehammer and applying it to my house and being asked to tear down the house."

Already, Fassler and his wife Karen have removed some of the large trees and are in the process of giving away flowers to anyone who will take them.

An iconic Bodhi tree will be given away and a Kwan Yin statute will have to be removed, Fassler said.

"It makes me very, very sad. I could not believe the city would allow this to happen. It used to be a small paradise everyone enjoyed," said Manoa resident Liz Xu.

Added longtime neighbor Sandy Hawk: "I've come up here every day and every day, it's less and less and less. He's giving all the flowers away. It's sad."

According to the city, some of the plants encroach on the sidewalk and have to be trimmed back and many of the trees and potted flowers also require a variance. Sap trees have to be removed.

The city has given the Fasslers until June 30.

The garden, located on city-owned land, was founded 21 years ago. That's when a group of Punahou School students were caught vandalizing some of the neighborhood homes, Fassler said.

As part of their punishment, the students cleared out the sidewalk area and installed plants.

That garden eventually grew over the years to include giant papaya trees, several mango trees and thousands of flowers.

Area residents have appealed to the city and area lawmakers but they fear that it's too late.

"This is just really a special, special place has been wasted by the City and County. It's just silly," said Hawk.

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