(BIVN) – When the gigantic Honomu Park banyan tree fell on Sunday morning, it was not a shock to neighbor Rex Ribao.
“Today the tree fell,” said Ribao, who has been living under the shadow of the towering tree for years. “The arborist yesterday (in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald newspaper said) that the tree will not fall. And here it is. Fall.”
The day before, the local newspaper published a photo of the newly trimmed tree. It was the end result of a long debate in the Honomu community over what to do with the giant banyan. Many – including an arborist – considered the tree to be dangerous. But many also did not want to see the tree get cut down.
For Ribao, the tree has for years been a direct threat to his family.
“My whole issue is, this is my residence … that is covered by this tree,” Ribao said. The tree has damaged his home, “on the roofs, under my foundation. Three of my bathrooms have roots from the tree… I cannot use two of my bathrooms in my house. It’s been like this for the past five years.”
The tree is on county property.
“I’ve asked County Council, I’ve asked the mayor’s office, I’ve asked the county to help me,” Ribao said. “I’ve asked community at community meetings to help me. They rather save the tree than assist a community member and my family from all this damage that it caused.”
The fate of the tree has been a divisive topic in the small plantation town. The Outdoor Ciricle got involved, leading an effort to “Save the Honomu Park WWII Memorial Banyan Trees”.
“The history of the tree can be debated through a lot of people in different generations and stuff,” Ribao said yesterday, as crews worked to cut and clear the fallen banyan. “My family that I married into has had to deal with this tree for decades. I mean, decades upon decades.”
Ribao says the family home was built in the 1920s, well before the tree was planted. The tree was apparently planted in the World War II years. “My wife’s great-great great-grandfather and family – and now currently, ours – had to deal with this tree overhanging our property for the last – I don’t know – 50, 60 years. And so today it fell down, after a lot of claims that I’ve put in for the past seven years.”
A tree risk assessment was done by Arborist Services LLC for the county in November 2016. “It is my professional opinion that both trees are structurally sound at this time,” said Mark O’ Dell, an ISA Certified Arborist, who studied two trees in the area. “However, tree #1 does pose an overall risk to property and/or life. Further maintenance or removal of this tree is recommended.”
After the trimming, the tree fell on Sunday, covering the road, engulfing a vehicle, and knocking out power for 286 HELCO customers.
“I’m glad that nobody got hurt today,” Ribao said. “I’m glad nobody got hurt. And that’s the main thing. My intent five years ago was not to kill the tree. It was to take the tree down enough to where, if it does fall, nobody would get hurt. And that’s it.”