Waimanalo park redevelopment on hold as authorities investigate possible artifact

Published: Oct. 1, 2019 at 7:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A controversial Waimanalo park redevelopment project is on hold as government agencies investigate a possible stone artifact found at the site.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday that work is being temporarily halted “out of an abundance of caution" as archaeologists with the state Office of Historic Preservation try to determine what the object is ― and whether its discovery means other items could be in the same area.

But he also cast doubt on assumptions that the object is sort of ancient tool.

“We’ll wait to see what they have to say and move forward at that time. We’re going to follow all the protocols and make sure that everything is done properly," Caldwell said.

But he added that two archaeologists who examined the item told him they don’t believe it was man made.

A preliminary analysis of the ‘artifact’ indicates that it is a basalt fragment, a dike stone of unknown origin. It exhibits a flake scar that could be a result of human activity or that is equally likely to be natural breakage, according to the DLNR.

Work on Phase 1 of the Waimanalo park redevelopment which includes a multi-purpose playing field, was set to by done by the end of November.

“We want to try to find a way through this. We’re willing to compromise. As I mentioned, we’re just doing Phase 1, no more,” he said.

[Read more: City pledges to press forward with controversial Waimanalo park project despite arrests]

Hawaii News Now first reported on the discovery of the object Monday.

Police, archaeologists and the leader of Save Our Sherwoods inspected the site at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park on Monday afternoon. At that time, Historic Preservation archaeologists declined comment.

“I had a brief conversation with them and they said they’d go back to the office and release a recommendation,” said Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo, president of Save Our Sherwoods.

Leaders of Save our Sherwoods say the item was found Saturday at the site. Project critics released a photo to Hawaii News Now of the artifact in question.

SOS members believe the stone object could be made from basalt rock that’s not from the area. The city has said archaeological surveys showed no iwi, or human remains, in the project site.

The decision to put the project on hold comes on the heels of a tumultuous week for the project.

Last Thursday, 28 people were arrested at the park after they blocked construction equipment and crews from getting in. And then over the weekend, protesters sued in an effort to halt work.

Meanwhile, supporters of the plan are also working to get their voices heard.

“There is no iwi in the place of the park. Period. There is iwi at Sherwood Forest, but not at the site. I don’t know how many times we have to repeat it over and over,” said project supporter and Waimanalo resident Mabel Keliihoomalu Spencer.

She says say Mayor Kirk Caldwell made a compromise by only moving forward with first phase of the project, which calls for a multi-purpose field, playground and 11-stall parking lot.

The cost of the phase is $1.43 million.

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