Hawaii County Puts Historic Banyan on Chopping Block

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There was a time, not long ago, when environmentalists protected trees from being cut down by developers. Now, trees need to be protected from environmentalists cutting them down.

A case in point is a beautiful, majestic banyan tree that graces Reed’s Bay Beach Park, in Hilo. This area of Hilo boasts numerous banyan trees, many named after famous people and planted over 70 years ago in their honor. In 1934, Princess Kawananakoa planted a banyan here. In fact, the street these are on is called Banyan Drive.


This particular banyan can be seen as you enter Banyan drive, and is the centerpiece of Reeds Bay Park. This tree should be listed as one of the most beautiful banyan specimens, indeed one of the most beautiful trees of any kind. The size of a three story house, it offers needed shade, its roots keep the shoreline intact, and it creates a magical, almost mystical ambiance that delights residents and tourists. Planted in the 1930’s, it has survived four tsunamis.

But it is guilty of one crime that has placed it on the Hawaii County Planning Department’s chopping block. That crime is that it is not “native”. And if events proceed as local native species supremacists are plotting, this mountain of a tree will be destroyed, not for harming the environment, but for simply coming from another place on the planet.

This banyan poses no threat to native species. It is not competing with any native trees. This species of banyan does not spread in the wild. This is purely a matter of ideology, and the current ideology condemns non-native species for the sole reason that they were brought to Hawaii within the past 400 years.

This intolerance and hatred for all things non-native is new in Hawaii. There was a time when Hawaii’s environment was valued for its ability to support all sorts of exotic species. To make Hawaii more food sustainable, more beautiful, and with more biodiversity, numerous species have been brought here over the centuries. Laws have even been passed to protect all exceptional trees from destruction, regardless of whether or not they are native.

Of course, some of these exotic trees have invaded the wild and are redefining ecosystems, sometimes for the worse. In response, environmentalists over the past couple of decades have shifted focus from protecting trees to destroying non-native trees. Actually, they would argue, they are protecting some trees by killing others.

However, as with all reactionary movements, these environmentalists have over-reacted, and can no longer see the forest for the trees. They condemn all non-native species, regardless of context. They have become zealots with an insatiable urge to cleanse the islands of all the species that “don’t belong here”, a species cleansing similar to ethnic cleansing.

And, according to these people, the banyans at Reeds Bay just don’t belong.

Of course, this banyan tree has enormous economic value, in addition to its aesthetic and ecological value. Given its size, location, and importance to holding the shoreline together, tree appraisers would probably assess this banyan in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This, of course, belongs to the public, since this is a county park.

Besides losing the value of this tree, the cost of removing it will be huge, as will the cost of mitigating the impacts to the shoreline from this tree’s removal.

If the native supremacists had their way, all of the banyan trees on Banyan Drive would be destroyed. They believe Hawaii residents should take no pleasure in non-native trees. They would probably also want to rename Banyan Drive, since honoring a non-native species with a road name is against their agenda.

The Hawaii Department of Parks and Recreation has just received approval from the Planning Committee for the destruction of this banyan, along with other old, beautiful, but also non-native trees at Reed’s Bay Beach Park.

We must all come to the rescue of these trees. We must save these special trees for future generations to enjoy. We must stop invasive environmentalism that destroys our valuable trees as part of a war on our environment in the name of species cleansing.

Please contact Mayor Billy Kenoi at 808-961-8211 with your comments. Also complain to the Department of Parks and Recreation at 808-961-8311.

‘For more information, contact Sydney Ross Singer at 935-5563, or email mailto:SaveTheBanyan@gmail.com – Sydney Ross Singer is the Director, Good Shepherd Foundation in Pahoa, Hawaii’