Manoa is dealing with a weird new crime: Vandals are stripping bark from trees

'Disturbing’: Why are vandals stripping the bark from trees in Manoa?

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - “This is brand new. You can feel it. It’s still fresh and still damp,” Art Mersereau said.

The Manoa resident walks his dogs daily in Manoa District Park.

He pointed out damage vandals have done to about a half dozen trees.

"They started going after these trees," he said. "Then after a while the ones along that stream over there started getting hacked at."

The City posted signs warning of fines and jail time for damaging trees.
The City posted signs warning of fines and jail time for damaging trees. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

The trees are called acacia confusa, commonly known as false koa wood trees, a non-native species.

In postings on Nextdoor Manoa, some people said a man and a woman have been spotted in the park at night using a machete to harvest the bark.

Park users started noticing the damaged trees late last year.

“These trees have been here for such a long time, and people are just tearing off the bark and doing whatever they’re doing to it,” resident James Humphries said.

Arborists say some Pacific island cultures use the bark for medicinal purposes. The tree also contains the chemical DMT ― a hallucinogen.

“Everybody is talking about how it’s drug-related. And it’s a hallucinogenic element in this tree,” park user Catherine Cooke said.

The city posted warning signs on the damaged trees.

Vandals can be fined $500 and spend up to 30 days in jail.

"They're ignoring the postings, obviously. That's disturbing," Mersereau said.

City Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Nathan Serota said scraping away bark could damage the trees to the point where they can't fully recover. They could also be more prone to pest infestation.

"We're trying to grow our tree inventory," he said. "We're trying to increase our urban shade cover. We're trying to get more trees planted in the ground. This is really a step in the wrong direction."

If you see the crime happening or know who damaged the Manoa trees call 911.

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