Mayor defends decision to move forward with Waimanalo park project that drew protests

Mayor defends decision to move forward with Waimanalo park project that drew protests

WAIMANALO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The mayor is defending his decision to move forward with a controversial Waimanalo park project that drew protesters Monday, despite the stay-at-home order.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said plans to resume the project for Sherwoods Forest were made well before the pandemic started — and he doesn’t see a reason to change them.

“This decision was made with the input of many people,” he said, at a news conference Monday. “We’re proceeding.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green were among those calling for a halt to construction amid the pandemic.

He’s concerned protests could increase the chances of spreading coronavirus, and called going forward with the work a “terrible mistake.”

On Monday morning, about 20 protesters turned out at the park and the crowd included kupuna and children.

“It’s kinda hurtful that the mayor would allow this to happen,” said Kalaninui Akau who got a citation.

Police say there were two citations, 28 warnings and no arrests.

On the citation, police wrote “Rules of the Mayor." HPD later explained the citations were for violating emergency laws after ignoring officers warnings to leave.

The project was put on hold last September after 28 people were arrested trying to block construction.

Caldwell announced plans to move forward with construction Sunday, saying the city has made compromises with community members and the group “Save Our Sherwoods,” which had opposed the project.

The announcement drew a quick rebuke from those against the project.

“The mayor is playing fast and loose with public health,” said Maureen Harnish.

“It is inappropriate for him to do this in the middle of a pandemic for a controversial project that has repeatedly illustrated the passion of this community. It’s unconscionable.”

A hearing for a lawsuit against the city has been pushed back because of the pandemic, according to plaintiffs.

Some opponents, meanwhile, have said they do not plan to protest and put their health at risk.

Caldwell said it’s a project that should finally be allowed to go forward.

“We’re trying to keep people working," said Caldwell.

“This is a construction project, just like other projects in town. So we want to continue to employ people, we’re going to continue to put money back into our local community. And we absolutely hope that people aren’t going to come out in large numbers.”

The plans no longer include a playground. They now call for a multi-purpose field surrounded by native trees. Changes will also be made to the parking lot to allow more stalls for the disabled.

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