Vandals killing Mililani monkeypod adds to city's tree crimes

Vandals killing Mililani monkeypod adds to city's tree crimes
Published: Aug. 23, 2013 at 9:23 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:46 AM HST
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Austin Braaten; City arborist
Austin Braaten; City arborist

MILILANI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city appraised the 45-year-old monkeypod tree at $19,000. But that was when it was standing strong like the other healthy trees in Kipapa Neighborhood Park.

Over the last eighteen months vandals have turned it into a skeleton. They hacked and hammered it to death.

"This is probably the worst that we've seen ever. Somebody worked real hard to make sure this tree died," said Stanley Oka of the city's Department of Parks Urban Forestry Division.

Someone knocked off a wide band of bark. That choked off the water supply and killed the tree from the top down. Arborists call it "girdling."

"This is a crime. A pretty big crime," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

The crime falls under the category of criminal property damage. It's happening all over the island. Vandalism of city owned trees is on pace to top last year's total of a dozen.

"In just six months we have had ten incidents of trees being girdled and dying around this island, in parks and on streets," Caldwell said.

This is the first park tree killed this year. The nine other trees on the dead list sat close to private property. City arborist Austin Braaten suspects neighbors did those in.

"We see a lot of drill holes, poisoning, herbicide. So people are really making the effort to do harm to these trees," he said.

Because the branches are brittle, the decades old tree is being taken down. A $2,000 expense to taxpayers. It will take two days worth of work from a city crew that could be doing other jobs.

"In this case we do have a contingency. But even with a contingency I still think that vandalizing one tree is one tree too many," city councilman Joey Manahan said.

The killing of the Mililani monkeypod gives the city one less tree in its 250,000 tree inventory and one more reason to say if you see tree vandalism happening, call 911.

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