Burial council finds ‘no cause for alarm’ on controversial Sherwoods project

Updated: Oct. 9, 2019 at 8:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a presentation by city project managers and contracted archaeologists on the controversial Sherwoods park development, the Oahu Island Burial Council advocated for updated testing and study of the area, but took no formal position on the project despite public pressure to take a stand against it.

“From the information that you have presented to us today, we do not have any serious cause for alarm,” said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, chair of the Oahu Island Burial Council.

Despite multiple arrests, concerns about Hawaiian burials, a lawsuit and protesters who vow to block the city’s heavy equipment, she said the conflict is between Hawaiian residents in Waimanalo. She’s urging caution.

"Iwi kupuna should not be used as a scapegoat and a means to the end if they are not the actual reason that something should not happen," she said.

City project managers and archaeologists told the burial council there are no burials in the phase one of the Sherwoods project at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park which includes a multi-purpose sports field, playground and 11 stall parking lot.

"To date we have found no burials or human remains. We have found a few glass bottles that date back to the 1940's," said Paul Cleghorn of Pacific Legacy, the city's contracted archaeology firm.

Archaeologists say four burials were discovered in the 1970′s, but Pacific Legacy says they were discovered around the beach area which is more than one-thousand feet from the project site at at the entrance of the park.

"All the burials that we discovered were in the makai portion of the park," said Cleghorn.

A recently discovered artifact brought the project to a halt at the beginning of October. The State Historic Preservation Division preliminary finding was that it was not significant, a basalt fragment of unknown origin and age.

Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo, the president of Save of Sherwoods says the city and Oahu Island Burial Council are failing to see the big picture that known burials are in the area. He says opponents will continue to protest the project.

"We are prepared to hold the line. We are prepared to Aloha Aina. We are prepared to protect this space the iwi kupuna. A thousand feet away from known burials is too close. Today it's thousand feet, tomorrow it's two feet," said Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo.

Wong-Kalu says the Sherwoods project may have many have other concerns, but there’s no actual bones for the burial council to get involved.

City archaeologists say the Sherwoods area was heavily bulldozed for years and that if any iwi kupuna are discovered, that would immediately stop the project. They did concede that because Sherwoods has been heavily bulldozed for decades, any bones that may have been there, would have been ground up.

Save our Sherwoods says even though the city has said it'll only complete phase one of the project, there's still an entire master plan that leaves room for future development and destruction of burials.

When will heavy equipment come back to Sherwoods? A city spokesman says they’re checking with their contracted archaeologists to see if any more analysis needs to be done.

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