Category Archives: environment

Speaking of oceanfront properties…

We were able to spend Saturday night with friends in Kaaawa, and got up early Sunday morning for our walk at dawn. This was the view at Swanzy Beach Park, where a few hardy campers braved the blustery weather.

November 27

Despite the concerns about the effect of climate change on sea levels, we noticed that a home on a narrow lot between the highway and the ocean sold earlier this year for a reported $998,000. It’s located along a beach that has experienced substantial erosion for years, and seems a prime candidate to fall victim to rising sea levels, but that apparently didn’t deter buyers.

I suppose it would be interesting to look at sales data for oceanfront properties. I’ll have to give some thought to what to look for in these data.

Any suggestions?

Or maybe someone’s already done this?

A great lead: “I was attacked by a pig…”

Most of us have never worried about becoming the victim of a pig attack. So when I saw this little story by an old friend now living up mauka in Hilo, I immediately asked for and received permission to share the tale.

As an aside, I realized we’ve known each other for well over 40 years. That’s both startling and sobering.

Anyway, here’s his story, reprinted from an email with his permission.

I was attacked by a pig down near the makai end of the street on October 14. I was taking a morning walk and heard a long, frenzied barking near the back of a house under construction, but, of course, neither the owner nor builder was there at the time. I walked toward the commotion and soon realized that a dog (it looked like a pit bull on a chain) and a pig were fighting. The dog would attack the pig and then the pig would attack the dog. Neither was yielding. The dog had a dog house but he did not retreat into it. I thought that I probably could see the pig’s snout covered with blood but was not certain of that.

I moved a little closer (to 65 feet or so) to get a better look, the pig saw me, and began to move toward me at a fast trot. I picked up a large rock to get ready for him. He came right up to me and bit me on my left thigh, and I hit him with the rock, dropping the rock in the process. I decided to make a run for it. When I wheeled around to run, the pig ran back toward the dog. I walked home and tried to get some help from our next-door neighbors, who are pig hunters, but none of them were home.

Then my wife and I drove to the lot in our car to check on the dog’s condition. The pig was gone, but the pit bull did not bark at us, which I took to be an indication that it was injured.

We returned home, and we called the Police and the Humane Society, both of which refused to respond. I tried everything I could think of to find out who the owner and/or contractor were, so that I could
contact them. Easily found the name of the owner but could not find a phone number for him. Finally, I left a message on the door of the house with my phone number. The owner contacted me that night. He said that the dog, a female pit bull, was pretty well beaten up.

The pig had bitten the front of my left thigh through my thick shorts, but it did not appear that his teeth actually had come in contact with or broke my skin, so I thoroughly washed the area and let it go at that–no trip to ER or urgent care. My thigh developed two large darkish bruises (one for upper
teeth and one for lower teeth) that lasted two weeks or so. I had my regular visit with my primary care doctor the next week. He was okay with my assessment/treatment of the bite. My neighbor pointed out that the femoral artery is on the top of the thigh, so a deep bite could have been dangerous.

A couple of weeks later, I took a walk down to the end of the road, near the house where the confrontation had occurred. I noticed that the owner-builder was on site, so I walked up to introduce myself. It turned out that he had returned the dog to the house site for the first time on that very morning, so I got to meet and make friends with Stella. She is a beautiful pit bull with a solid gray coat and very friendly. She is the special friend of the man’s daughter, who is 10 or 11 years old. The owner said that Stella’s tongue was cut badly during the fight, and he showed me the nasty wound on her right shoulder, a rip, which was healing nicely.

I think that pigs are a generally under appreciated danger here. Many people have houses on lots that are right next to forested areas, and pigs go where they want. I worry about, say, surprising a pig at the back of our property, especially a sow with a litter of small pigs or a macho boar. Just this morning, on our way to the farmers’ market, we saw a pig trotting along the edge of the road, not concerned at all by our car. They are not an unusual sight.

When we lived in Kaaawa, pigs would come down from the mountains when food or water was in short supply up in their normal territory. At least a couple of times, we looked out to see a large pig digging up the front lawn. Luckily, they didn’t attack. And there was the morning we found a piglet in the yard. It was small enough to put in a cat carrier while we tried to decide what we should do. I went over to see if one of our neighbors had any suggestions, and she decided to adopt the pig. It grew up and probably got to be close to 300 pounds, and lived a happy long life in penned area in their yard.

It was, fortunately or unfortunately, more common to have local pig hunters take such matters into their own hands.

Taro spotted in an unexpected place

I was walking back home from the bus stop at the end of the Kahala Mall route. It’s not too far, maybe 6/10 of a mile straight down Kealaolu Avenue.

Yesterday I noticed something for the first time. There’s an older house in the long block above Moho Street that has so far avoided the excesses of the new homes that have been built closer to the ocean. It’s got a somewhat ramshackle wooden fence in front. As I walked past, I got a glimpse through the fence, then looked over for a better view.

Along Kealaolu Avenue

There, inside the fenced front yard, are what appear to be two good size plots planted in taro. Yes, taro. And it looks like its doing well.

What a statement! Just a bit farther down the street, former gardens and shade trees that formerly graced the large lots were bulldozed to make way for homes stretching from property line to property line, usually surrounded by intimidating walls and a few selected plants for local color.

Now I guess I’ll have to be a little nosy and learn more about this unexpected oasis and its taro patch.

What islands are we seeing from Waialae Beach Park?

When we lived in Kaaawa, there was a lively debate over a number of years over what islands you could see on clear mornings.

Now that we’ve moved to the other side of Oahu, the same question has come up.

On a recent morning, the clouds lifted and it was clear enough to see other islands to the east. The question is, what were we seeing?

If you click on the photo below, you’ll see a larger version. The islands out there are just shadows against the colorful sky at dawn.

Yes, I know. Not a good photo. But all I had that morning was my iPhone. So it’s the best I could do.

What islands do we see?

My guess is as follows. At the far left, the edge of Koko Head, with the sun rising just being it. Then the low end of Molokai. In the center, Maui. What I’m not sure about is the bump on the left side. Could that be the high end of Molokai superimposed over Maui? The West Maui Mountains? I’m not sure. Then there’s a bump further to the right. Lanai?

The angle of view is different enough from what we saw in Kaaawa to leave me confused once again.

Your suggestions?

Obliteration of Thomas Square history apparently already underway

The city’s ignorance of history is no excuse for destroying the heritage of Thomas Square. This is an instance where the mayor needs to step forward and take action to save this highly symbolic piece of island history.

Thanks to Doug Matsuoka for reminding us of the situation in a Facebook post last week.

He wrote:

The City & County of Honolulu is erasing the Hawaiian flag from Thomas Square… The pathways in Thomas Square are designed to look like the Union Jack in Honor of Admiral Thomas who restored Hawaiian sovereignty back in 1843. You can still see the design in the Google Earth image.

But this last Sunday… check the pano. No paths. They’re fertilizing the paths away, disappearing even the memory of Hawaiian Sovereignty. WTF?

The top photo from Google Earth shows the design of Thomas Square. The Union Jack design is still clearly visible.

Thomas Square

But in the photo below, taken just over a week ago, the paths and the historic design are being obliterated. Click for a larger version of the photo.


This isn’t esoteric Hawaii history. Do a quick online search for Thomas Square and you’ll find numerous references to the importance and significance of the British flag design.

Read Denby Fawcett’s recent column in Civil Beat, which is an excellent review (“Denby Fawcett: Tap The Brakes On Thomas Square Proposal“).

Earlier, Thomas Square was identified as one of our most threatened history sites in a 2014 Honolulu Magazine review (“The 8 Most Endangered Historic Places in Hawai‘i“).

From the article:

Thomas Square is Hawai‘i’s first official public park, dedicated in 1850 by King Kamehameha III for British Rear Adm. Richard Thomas. During a ceremony in 1843 on the plot of land now bearing his name, the admiral restored the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom after British subjects unlawfully seized the Hawaiian government. It was during that ceremony that King Kamehameha III spoke the famous words that would become the state’s motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘?ina i ka pono.” Nearly 90 years later, additional features would be added to the park, including a central water fountain, radial coral pathways arranged in the pattern of the Union Jack and the Beretania Street Promenade, designed by landscape architects Catherine Jones Thompson and Bob Thompson. The park was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1972 based on its political significance.

In his 2014 State of the City address, Mayor Kirk Caldwell listed the restoration of Thomas Square as one of his top priorities, says Curtis Lum, spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Permitting. “His vision is to see Thomas Square emerge, once again, as a crown jewel and, with the Blaisdell, become a more active gathering place that anchors a vibrant arts and cultural community,” Lum says. While concrete plans have not been developed, one proposal discussed in April includes designing a bike path through the park, box planters and hard pathways. The concepts “were not based on restoring the features and characteristics from the historic period, but rather would erase most of the landscape architecture designed by Thompson and Thompson,” says Kiersten Faulkner, executive director of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

The public should make its opinions known. The city has made no decisions on Thomas Square’s future, says Lum, but the public will be asked for its feedback during the various phases of planning.

The city expects to complete an environmental assessment of the project soon, and public comment will be essential.

I find it sad that Mayor Caldwell, who benefited from a large property tax exemption due to the historic designation of his residence, is turning a blind eye to the far more significant history of Thomas Square.

Come on, Kirk. The city can certainly renovate the park without destroying its historic character. Show some leadership.