Vandals destroy valuable city trees by 'girdling'

Published On: Aug 23 2013 07:20:38 PM HST

"This is probably the worst we've ever seen. Somebody worked really hard to make sure this tree died," said Stan Oka, Urban Forestry Division administrator.

The trees are tripped to the bone.

After more than 40 years of shading and beautifying Kipapa Park, crews had no choice but to cut down a massive monkey pod tree, after city workers said vandals snuffed the life out of it.

"It looks like an ax or a cutting tool was used to remove the bark and the cambium which supports life to the tree," said Austin Braaten, an arborist with the Urban Forestry Division.

"What it does is severe the connection from the top of the tree to the bottom of the tree and it slowly starves," said Oka.

Vandals have already destroyed ten trees in six months, with many of those trees shading city parks for decades.

"I think it's terrible. They've got to find something better to do than pick on than trees," said Mililani resident Gimmy Sarmiento.

He said he's worried such vandalism will hurt what his young son Maya, and one day, what his family, can enjoy.

"We run in the grass, but on a hot sunny day, we like to go under the trees and cool down," he said.

"You want to fix the tree?" KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada asked Maya.

"Yes. I want to fix it," he replied.

"That's $19,000 involved here. This is a crime. A pretty big crime," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Caldwell and city council members said it not only hurts trees, it hurts taxpayers, and the city's bottom line.

"It hurts not just the tree, but the community and our budgets. To have to take money away to fix this problem, when we would otherwise fund good programs," said city council member Joey Manahan.

"This is a park tree. This is everyone's tree. It's not for one person to come out here and kill it, because it's affecting everyone," said Braaten.

Caldwell said the vandalism is not only a crime, but because of the value of the trees, it could be a felony.

Because of that, the city is asking people who may know anything about whose vandalizing city trees to call 911.


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