KOLOA — Local arborist Maureen Murphy is teaching the County of Kauai how to prune the 20-year-old rainbow and golden shower trees that line the Koloa bypass road.
It all started last week when staff of the Department of Public Works pruned a few of the trees, which were planted by community members in the 1990s.
The county launched the project after receiving calls about safety concerns from the community.
But county workers went overboard, according to Murphy. As president of Kauai Outdoor Circle, she reached out to the county to try to help preserve the trees.
“It was the intention of the county to address the safety of motorists, as we have had several complaints regarding the crown of the trees impeding the roadway for larger trucks,” said Lyle Tabata, acting county engineer.
Tree-trimming operations stopped as soon as community concerns were voiced, and now crews are waiting for some instruction from Murphy before resuming.
“Our Roads Division will be ceasing this tree-trimming work until such time that we consult Maureen Murphy of Kauai Outdoor Circle, who can meet with our roads crew at the site to determine the best trimming practice for these specific trees,” Tabata said.
“The whole point is we need to work together to take good care of these trees and prune them properly,” Murphy said. “The county has started pruning them and I want to work with the county.”
“They’re beautiful, full flower trees and it’s the gateway to Poipu,” Murphy said.
After a few of the trees were pruned, a call went out on Nov. 16, asking for concerned people to contact the county regarding the project.
In that plea for help, author Carol Ann Davis estimated the value of the more than 50 trees at around $200,000.
Murphy said DPW representatives were receptive to the suggestions, and she is encouraged they’re “doing things differently and working with the (Kauai) Outdoor Circle.”
“I’m going to prune one of the trees in a way that’s consistent with best practices and hope the county will then do the rest of the trees in that manner,” she said. “I will go out with them in the first week of December and show them how to properly prune.”
Kauai Outdoor Circle is also working to list the shower trees on the exceptional tree list, with the help of the Koloa Community Association. That would require the county to have a certified arborist prune the trees.
Tree pruning is traditionally more of a Department of Parks and Recreation project, and Murphy wants to bring public works up to speed because they’re usually more focused on infrastructure repair and building.
“You wouldn’t ask a tree expert to do the roads,” Murphy said. “The Public Works Department doesn’t have any arborists on staff. Whoever is going to be responsible for pruning trees should be trained.”
Murphy has spent the last 40 years as an arborist and is the only registered consulting arborist on Kauai. She said she wants to do her part to help keep Kauai beautiful and caring for trees is integral to that mission.
“Besides aesthetic beauty, (trees) provide us with oxygen, they maintain ground water, they feed us,” Murphy said. “You plant a seed and you harvest something. The benefits are huge.”
Tabata said county staff members are appreciative of the dedication the community has to the trees, and to keeping Kauai beautiful.
“We also appreciate the work and resources that the community put into planting these trees, and we appreciate the Kauai Outdoor Circle for offering services to the county so that we can find a ‘win-win’ solution,” he said.