Monkeypod fellings at KCC cause rift

Kaua‘i resident Blu Dux wants to protect trees.

She has called for a nighttime vigil at the Kaua‘i Community College this Sunday to protest the cutting down of seven monkeypod trees at the Puhi campus on May 24.

The vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the parking lot by the tennis courts, Dux told The Garden Island in an interview. “This should never have happened,” she said. “The university should reflect a model that shows a reverence for life.”

KCC Chancellor Peggy Cha said university officials were reluctant to cut down the trees to the stump because they had been alive for at least 25 years.

But officials decided to have the trees removed because the spreading roots damaged the parking lot and created safety and liability issues.

A KCC official, requesting anonymity, said: “I didn’t want to cut down the trees too. But there was liability.”

Dux said she hopes the vigil will “create dialogue” to prevent a similar occurrence.

“The idea is to let people become aware of something like this,” she said. “I am an estate gardener. My job is the stewardship of the land, and so I advocate on behalf of all the life the planet supports.”

Dux said trees are extremely important, “Not only for aesthetics but also because of the life-sustaining oxygen they produce.”

Dux said she hopes the vigil will result in a grassroots network “to begin to voice our concerns, rather than just drive by.”

“You can build a parking lot in a few days, but trees like these take 25 years to grow, and now they are gone,” Dux said.

Aloha Tree Trimmers of Kilauea was contracted to cut down the trees.

Parts of tree trunks have been stacked in the parking lot and could be used by college students or employees later, according to one KCC official who asked not to be named.

Cutting down the trees seemed the most viable option, due to the damage to the parking lot, said KCC’s Cha.

“The trees are destroying a parking lot. The roots have created potential hazards,” Cha said. “It (the roots) is cracking the pavement, and has created a hazard for pedestrians.”

She says it is always difficult to cut down a tree, “but you have to balance the safety of the individual with the tree.”

Cha said the tree roots have posed problems before.

“The situation has been there for some time, and we try to figure out the best solution,” Cha said. “We have looked at options other than chopping down the trees.”

Cha said shrubbery or vegetation might be planted to replace the fallen trees. “They would be low level, with roots that don’t spread and cause this problem again.”

Dux said some type of vegetation should be planted, and soon.

“The trees, of course, are extremely important, not only because of aesthetics but also because of the life-sustaining oxygen they produce,” Dux said.

Dux said she would like to see native plants and vegetation planted where the trees were removed.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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