POSTED: 5 FEBRUARY 2008 - 7:30am HST

Koloa Monkeypod Tree Vigil

image above: view of Monkeypod trees looking to mountains. Photo by Jonathan Jay

by Jeri DePietro on 4 February 2008

Help save Koloa’s Monkeypod trees for future generations. Join us in a Candlelight Vigil at sunset on Friday 8 February 2008.


Save the historic trees of Old Koloa Town

Friday, 8 February, 2008 4:00pm - 8:00pm


Candlelight Vigil at sunset

Old Koloa Town, on Koloa Road

Con't cut down the trees. Let them live!

Jeri DePietro
phone: 808-651-9603




POSTED: 5 FEBUARY 2008 - 7:30am HST

Kauai at a bittersweet crossroads

by Luara Bly on 31 January 2008 in USA Today

This winter's candlelight vigils and banner-waving protesters are gone, their legal challenges exhausted. Soon, bulldozers could roll past Koloa's wooden sidewalks, clucking chickens and stop sign plastered with a "Die Developers Die" bumper sticker, ready to transform a ragtag grove of monkeypod trees into a shopping center.

But here in Hawaii's oldest sugar plantation town, little more than a coconut's throw from the burgeoning tourist resort of Poipu, the stymied effort to preserve what local shopkeeper Lee Jacobson Rowen calls "the soul of Koloa" is a symbol of a much bigger fight for Kauai's identity — and future.

Asks a recent editorial in the local paper, The Garden Island: "How does an island like Kauai, with so much to offer the world and so much that can be taken away from residents, come to terms with itself?"

The paper continues: "For those who live here, the rewards are obvious. The negatives are also evident: traffic, overrun areas that were once secret or sacred, expansions of the tourism infrastructure. And though that infrastructure benefits residents in many ways, it also fosters the 'us and them' mentality. Resentment builds (and) visitors become the target."

Targets or no, visitors are thronging to the island Elvis Presley put on the vacation map with his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii, one of more than 50 films that have used Kauai's lush, staggeringly gorgeous scenery as a stand-in for paradise.

A record 1.27 million tourists arrived in 2007, aided by a boost in non-stop flights from the mainland and almost-daily calls by cruise ships. Despite a statewide economic slowdown and slump in real estate sales, the outlook for Kauai — where at least a third of the island economy is directly related to tourism — is "more ebullient than any other part of the state," noted First Hawaiian Bank's Leroy Laney.

The oldest and northernmost of the four major Hawaiian islands, Kauai receives the full force of moisture-laden trade winds sweeping across the Pacific. Most of its razor-edged cliffs and canyons are inaccessible by road; popular helicopter rides into the mouth of the volcanic crater Mount Waialeale reveal a luxuriant tangle of ferns and waterfalls draped like tinsel that give credence to the claim "wettest place on Earth."

Only 5% of Kauai's 552 square miles are designated for urban development, and the island is known for its laid-back, rural vibe.

Despite the controversial 1987 debut of a "mega-resort" that featured such un-Kauaian accoutrements as Roman statuary and Clydesdale-driven carriages, island building guidelines bar structures higher than the tallest coconut tree. The major highway remains a two-lane coastal road, incorporating a series of one-lane bridges that serve as de facto bans on tour buses and large-scale construction west of the Princeville resort area.

But over the past few years, as tourism kicked into high gear and the island's 63,000 residents wound down from rebuilding efforts following 1992's devastating Category 4 Hurricane Iniki, frustration levels have swelled like north shore surf during a winter storm. Among the recent flashpoints:

•In late August, the Hawaii Superferry suspended its planned daily service between Honolulu and Kauai when a flotilla of protesters on surfboards and outrigger canoes blockaded the island's harbor and prevented the 349-foot vessel from docking. Among other objections, opponents say the car and passenger ferry would worsen Kauai's clogged traffic.

•Kauai officials are debating legislation that could ban new vacation rentals outside designated tourist areas and phase out existing options, including those in scenic Hanalei and Haena on the island's north shore. This follows a Jan. 1 crackdown on unlicensed vacation rentals on Maui. Observers say the moves are prompted in part by locals' growing frustration over real estate costs on Kauai, where median condo prices jumped 40% last year to $565,000, despite a nearly 60% drop in sales.

•More than a dozen major construction projects are underway across the island — most in the sunny south shore resort area of Poipu. The price of a 2,038-square-foot, "plantation-style" cottage at Kukui'ula, a 1,000-acre luxury residential complex slated to open near Poipu Beach in 2010, starts at $2 million.

"None of us likes change, and (post-Iniki) development has been more geared to bringing people onto the island than to the people who already live here," says Kauai's mayor, Bryan Baptiste. At the same time, he notes, many enamored vacationers have decided to stay put or return year after year, with timeshares and condos making up more than 50% of island lodging.

Some repeat visitors to Kauai are as nonplussed at the rapid pace of that change as the kama'aina (longtime residents) they're joining.

"We came here (in 1983) because it was the anti-Florida," says Morristown, N.J.'s Jerry Clendenny, who spends two months a year in a Poipu condo. "Everybody wants to be the last one in, but I sure hope this isn't a case of 'pave paradise, and put up a parking lot.' "

Though a proposed moratorium on south shore projects didn't materialize, current ideas range from boosting the island's limited bus service to a ban on new subdivisions of agricultural land into so-called gentlemen's estates.

But for all Kauai's challenges, "we're still way behind the development in other places," adds Baptiste. "All you need to do is go to Oahu to see that our traffic is nothing. Finding a balance between a good economy and quality of life is where we're at."

On a rainy night at Hanalei's bamboo-thatched Tahiti Nui bar, a guitarist strums his zillionth rendition of the Peter, Paul and Mary hit Puff the Magic Dragon (inaccurately rumored to invoke the area's marijuana crops) while a handful of locals launch into a spirited debate over the pros and cons of the troubled Superferry.

A few miles up the coast, meanwhile, Mark Fredrickson and his wife, Lynne, are just happy to be trading sub-zero temperatures in the Upper Midwest for the sound of crashing surf in their low-glitz beachfront condo at the Hanalei Colony resort.
"I'm a small-town guy, and this is more my style than Maui, " says Fredrickson, of Watertown, Minn.

If any property represents Kauai's struggle to find a balance between preservation and growth, it's the Coco Palms.

Opened on the island's east coast in 1953 amid coconut palms planted by Hawaiian royalty, the hotel catapulted to fame as the setting for Blue Hawaii but was never rebuilt after Iniki. Despite a string of revival efforts — the most recent would have included 200 luxury condos and a fitness spa — it remains a crumbling eyesore along the main highway, its blown-out roof shingles gaping like missing teeth.

"This place had the aloha spirit from Day One," says sixth-generation Kauaian Larry Rivera, 77. Rivera started as a busboy and wound up as headliner, hobnobbing with the likes of Elvis and Ricardo Montalban, whose Fantasy Island series included scenes filmed on Kauai. He now croons Kauai, the Last Paradise during weekly gigs at the nearby Hilton, but still officiates about two dozen Blue Hawaii weddings a year from the same lagoon-side spot where Elvis said his celluloid vows.

A new Coco Palms plan, proposed in the Hawaii legislature late last month, would use public and private funding to transform the onetime home of the island's last reigning queen into a historic park and cultural center — including the wedding chapel that helped bring Elvis, and Kauai, so much fame.

For his part, Rivera wants to see his iconic haunt returned to its resort glory days. But he's mindful, too, of the lyrics to a song he recorded in 1999: "This is one island, many peoples, all Kauaian. … Hawaii belongs to everyone, to take care of and share."



POSTED: 28 JANUARY 2008 - 7:30am HST

Kauai Outdoor Circle on Koloa trees

image above: view of Monkeypod tree site from southwest corner looking north. Photo by Juan Wilson

The Kauai Outdoor Circle is dedicated to keeping Kauai “clean, green, and beautiful.” To that end, we stand for reasonable and responsible development. We recognize the rights of landowners to make their own decisions regarding the use of their property. At the same time we encourage developers to make use of the existing trees wherever possible - particularly large, healthy trees that positively impact the surrounding community. Many of the Monkeypod trees on the Knudsen Trust land scheduled for development by the Nelson Company fall into this category.

There are significant reasons to leave the majority of these trees in place:

• For more than two decades the community and the County of Kauai have recognized the importance of these trees. They are within the Poipu-Koloa -Kalaheo Development Plan Ordinance that identifies the historic significance of Koloa Town and, more specifically, it recognizes the importance of the large canopy trees in providing a sense character and historic charm.

• It has been shown that an equally successful development could be designed for the property without removing or significantly impairing many of the trees marked for removal.

• According to a consulting arborist, the 22 trees scheduled to be removed would have a value of $340,000 if left in place. They range in size from 24 to 105 inches in diameter. These trees would provide instant landscaping for the development. If they are removed and replaced with the proposed 12 inch diameter trees (as per current plan), it will take at least 20 years to restore the look and feel of the existing trees.

• If, as proposed, 22 of the Monkeypods are removed, it is estimated that at least 50% of the existing canopy will be removed. While one may chose to discount the aesthetic and emotional values of these landmark trees, this canopy loss will produce very real economic costs that will be imposed on the existing commercial community. Tree cover of this extent and density has been shown to lower the ambient temperature by as much as 10 degrees. Ten degrees that would make a significant difference in the air conditioning use of the proposed businesses, that will, in turn, produce even more heat.

• As a result, the adjacent businesses will be confronted with more than a 10 degree increase in ambient temperature. Those with air conditioning will find their equipment running longer and harder to be effective. Those without air conditioning will find that they need it. All will be confronted by significantly higher costs for their electrical service.

• At the same time, the potential customers of these small local businesses will find the increased heat and glare make stopping and getting out of their air conditioned cars much less attractive. Surveys have found that shoppers will spend up to 12 percent more on a product when they’re in an area with lots of leafy trees. Consider the dramatic difference in nearby Hanapepe Town where the businesses continually struggle, partly because the mature trees on the main street were cut down years ago, resulting in an environment that is too hot and unattractive for people to want to walk around. Had the mature trees been left in place the town and its businesses would appear much more appealing.

The entire Koloa business district will lose discretionary visitor-spending revenues. Their bottom lines will be hit from both sides: Higher costs and lower revenues.

The Kauai Outdoor Circle consists of members with a wide variety of skills and knowledge regarding the care of trees, including pruning, relocating and preserving during construction. Therefore, we urge the Knudsen Trust Trustee, Stacy Wong, and the developer, David Nelson to meet with selected members of the community, including representatives from The Kauai Outdoor Circle, to discuss ways in which the shopping center can be built while still maintaining many of the large Monkeypod trees, especially those along Maluhia and Koloa Roads which have historic and economic significance.

image above: on of the newly erected "No Trespassing" signs. Photo by Juan Wilson

see also:
Island Breath: Nelson plan for Koloa 1/20/08
Island Breath: TGI #21 Koloa Monkeypods 1/11/08
Island Breath: Koloa Trees = Koloa Town 1/2/08
Island Breath: Short count on tree canopy 12/31/07
Island Breath: Candlelight Vigil for trees 12/29/07
Island Breath: Monkeypod S.O.S. 12/27/07
Island Breath: Monkeypod Threes Threatened 12/18/07
Island Breath: Koloa Village Plaza Plan 8/9/06
Island Breath: Koloa-Poipu Moratorium 7/23/06