After consulting with an arborist, the Department of Transportation has decided to remove only the jacaranda trees with major termite damage and those leaning over Mamalahoa Highway in South Kona that could posing danger to passersby, said Caroline Sluyter, the state agency’s spokeswoman.
Sixteen historic jacarandas, located along the highway between Hookena Junction and McCandless Ranch, were the subject of a contentious debate last week as several Big island residents questioned tree trimming and removal work by DOT’s contractor. The trees were planted by members of well-known ranching families, specifically Elizabeth Loy Marks and Coco Hind, in the early 1960s to beautify the area. As of June 26, four jacarandas were chopped down.
According to Sluyter, two more jacarandas were removed in addition to what was already taken down.
Sluyter said DOT understands the community’s passion and concern for these beautiful, although non-native, trees, but safety is the agency’s priority. She also explained the other trees will be trimmed back to keep their branches from overhanging and possibly falling into the highway.
It took DOT almost a week to respond to media inquiries about the situation.