Protectors at Sherwoods in Waimanalo file federal lawsuit against the City

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HONOLULU (KHON2) Those opposed to construction of a new playing field at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, also known as Sherwoods, have filed a lawsuit against the City to stop the project.

Its been five months since the City started clearing trees at Sherwoods off of Kalanianaole Highway to begin construction on the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park master plan. Those who oppose the project said that filing this lawsuit is their last resort.

Members of the Save Our Sherwoods (SOS) movement have been calling for the destruction of Sherwoods to stop since it began in April.

“This project is not essential to the livelihood of this community. It is not needed by the sports community, and is not wanted by the people of Waimanalo,” said Archibald Kaolulo.

Kaolulo lives in Waimanalo. He and other SOS members filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the City.

“They don’t feel like they have any recourse left. Their voices have not been heard, and their wishes have not been respected. And so they’re seeking remedy from the courts now,” explained Timothy Vandeveer, attorney for the plaintiffs.

They are seeking an injunction to stop construction. Claiming the City violated land use control, national and state historic preservation and environmental laws.

Archaeologist Patrick Kirch, PhD. participated in the 1967 excavation at Bellows, which found a settlement dating back to 1,000 A.D.

“Partly on the basis of that site, along with burials that have come out of the sand dunes in various times since then, the Bellows Field Archaeological district was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places,” Kirch explained.

Kirch said he is not aware of any iwi, or bones found in the immediate construction area, and added that any projects should proceed with caution.

“These coastal regions, these areas with sand dunes, where we know iwi kupuna have already been discovered inadvertently in the past, one just has to be extremely cautious and take every step to make sure that more aren’t disturbed,” Kirch said.

The lawsuit claims the City did not handle the areas historic classification properly.

“We have through the National Park Service, Bellows Field Archaeological area, confirmed that indeed Waimanalo Bay Beach Park is still within that boundary. And there’s a very specific process that the city would have to go through to remove it from the National Register of Historic Places and, to our knowledge, the city has not done that,” Vandeveer said.

The lawsuit also states the City violated environmental laws.

“We also argue that the environmental assessment is insufficient and inadequate and also inaccurate– that there are some pretty glaring fallacies that ended up throughout the public record because of what they claim in the environmental assessment,” Vandaveer explained.

“Because they filed a lawsuit I’m not going to comment on the lawsuit,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

During a press conference on Thursday after 28 people were arrested for blocking access to the construction area at Sherwoods, Caldwell said the City does have the proper permits and has gone through the necessary process to complete the project.

He also stated that the City only plans to move forward with “phase 1” of the Waimanalo Bay Beach Park master plan.

Phase one of the project includes a multi-purpose field, a keiki playground and an 11-stall parking area.

“This hum-haw, we’re building a giant sports complex, that’s what the plan is but there are many plans on this city’s books that are never implemented. But as the mayor of city and county, we’ve committed just to build phase one, which is about five percent of the entire project. I consider that a compromise,” Caldwell said.

The City has already earmarked $1.4 million for the completion of phase 1.

Members of SOS said they don’t want it.

“Mr. Mayor, we will hold you accountable for this waste,” said Kaolulo.

Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo, a leading member of SOS, said they will continue to fight the project “until the last Aloha aina.”

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