Native plant garden in Hawaii stirs controversy

A Waimanalo resident said she was shocked when a city worker ordered her to remove a native plant garden after two years at Hunananiho, known to locals as Sherwood Forest. Mialisa Otis says she created the garden to honor the iwi kupuna, or ancestors, buried there, and she has had no problems diligently cultivating the flowers and medicinal plants daily, until now.

City workers ordered Otis to uproot some 20 plants by the end of this week and said if she did not, the workers would do it for her. "It makes me really angry that they're not doing anything about cleaning up their mess and they want to uproot native plants," she said.

Otis said the city desecrated the land across from the garden a few years ago when preparing for a controversial project to develop it into a community park. She said the garden's purpose in part is "to restore what they destroyed."

"It should belong to the community, it should be left alone. There are mounds of gravel and dirt and some things cannot grow back because of the rocks that they put here and they haven't removed it for two years." Following calls by KITV, city officials changed their tune.
A statement issued by a spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation claims the city initially ordered the removal of the garden because of a complaint.

The statement reads in part: "Realizing the significance of these plantings, and the work that went into their cultivation, we will be meeting with Mialisa and the community to determine the best path moving forward. Our intent is to ensure these community efforts are well-coordinated and can be maintained into the future."

This is not the first time city workers uprooted native plants. Roy Kainoa has been living at Sherwoods for almost eight years, but when the city swept his homeless encampment around six months ago, he said his plants were uprooted as well. "The plants have nothing to do with us being swept out, so I don't know why he pulled it out. Most of it died," Kainoa said, "and that really hurt, because of all the time I put into it, and friends who gifted the plants to me were hurt too." He added that city workers should instead be focusing on cleaning up the trash. "It feels kind of sad, you know. We even watch the park for the city and county at nighttime - that's what we do," he said. "Hopefully this gets straightened out, because you don't need to touch the plants. They belong here, just let it grow."

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