KIHEI - The monkeypods will stay.
More than a year after county officials first announced that four monkeypod trees would be removed along South Kihei Road, sparking a back-and-forth battle with tree lovers who wanted to see them saved, officials confirmed that they would accept the recommendation of the Kihei Community Association and leave the trees in place.
"That is correct," said county spokesman Rod Antone. "At some point, when they finalize plans for South Kihei Road, we may revisit the situation, but in the meantime the trees will stay where they are."
"We are pleased that the county has listened to the citizens of Kihei and found a way to keep the trees," said KCA President Jon Miller.
In March 2011, county officials said they would remove the four mature trees because their roots were damaging a sidewalk and a nearby parking lot. Members of the county Arborist Committee and other tree lovers opposed the action, and sought to prevent their removal by nominating the monkeypods for the county's list of "exceptional trees."
A month later, the county relented and removed the damaged sidewalk instead.
Then last summer, county officials said the trees might still have to be removed sometime in the future to make room for an eventual flood control project and road improvements in the area.
Then, earlier this year, the county said it was under pressure to replace the sidewalk to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that the trees might once again need to be removed.
Then officials announced a possible compromise that would allow the monkeypods to be uprooted and moved to another location.
Then supporters of the trees protested that plan, saying they wanted to see them remain in place.
Then last month, Mayor Alan Arakawa said he would leave the final decision for what to do with the monkeypods in the hands of the Kihei Community Association.
Finally, the association announced last week that the organization's Street Tree Committee had discussed the situation, including meeting with Department of Public Works Director David Goode to review the county's infrastructure plans.
"The four trees were clearly not stopping any flood improvements at this time, and may not ever be removed," KCA officials said in a news release. "The long-term nature of the plan did not justify the immediate removal or ultimate cost savings."
The KCA board endorsed the tree committee's plan to keep the trees in place for now and replace the sidewalk in a way that minimizes impact to the roots, and Arakawa accepted the recommendation, according to the association.
Antone confirmed that the county would move forward with replacing the sidewalk, but he noted that officials might eventually reconsider the fate of the trees if they damage the new sidewalk in the future.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.