To many in Waimanalo, the forested area in the nearby beach park known by local residents as Sherwood Forest is more than a landscape. It is an area that holds the memories of morning walks, dates, family outings, birthdays and weddings.

When the mayor of Honolulu announced plans to build a multimillion dollar sports centers, local residents went up in arms. Many local residents argued that the sports center was the first step towards gentrifying “Nalo Country.”

Others argued that there were undocumented bones near the area and it is one of the “first contact landing sites” for ancient Polynesians on Oahu and therefore the area should not be developed.

Others still argued that no one in the community really knew about the community meetings about the sports center therefore they were not informed.

Waimanalo Sherwood Forest Demonstrators along Kalanianiole Highway.
Waimanalo Sherwood Forest demonstrators along Kalanianaole Highway, May 3. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Whatever the argument, it is clear that there is an underlining difference in values between local residents and the pro-developer City Council — kaiaulu, or community.

Over the last few years we have seen condos rising up in Kakaako and subdivisions in Kapolei, but these are not real communities. Local people can not afford to live in Kakaako’s luxury condos, hence why Kakaako is a ghost town at nights. Kapolei and Wahiawa are popular for military families but as soon as their tour of duty is over, they leave.

These are not real communities in the sense that Waimanalo has been and fights to be. People know each other’s problems. People know who is pregnant and who just got a new job. They care for each other and despite issues, they remain a close-knit community.

Throwing money at a place does not turn it into a living community. That’s one of the many issues with gentrification — it is developed for a particular affluent segment of the population and geared towards trends rather than sustainability and meaningful human connection.

An Issue Of Culture

Sherwood in many ways represents that clash between competing ideas of community “development” that is going on throughout Hawaii nei.

Should development only favor a small portion of the population? What happens to the core ideas of kaiāulu and aloha when you impose development from an unwilling community?

Who benefits from state and county development schemes? Not in dollar terms but in tangible benefits for residents who physically live in that community 365 days a year?

There is also an issue of culture.

Native Hawaiians are a communal culture with a set of underlining meheuheu (customs) which put into practice values and traditions. Meheuheu then had helped turn groups of families into ahupuaa-based communities and later as part of a national community. While people often complain that Native Hawaiians are anti-development, that is not true.

“We should support communities that want to remain intact as real living communities.”

Native Hawaiians had huge taro paddies and changed the landscape but when they did, it should benefit everyone in the community because that was part of the meheuheu. But is it precisely because of meheuheu that Hawaii was able to establish a fully functioning culturally pluralistic society beginning in the Hawaiian Kingdom era.

When people think in terms of community and meheuheu, it benefits not just Kanaka Maoli but all residents because it makes Hawaii livable and uniquely beautiful.

We should support communities that want to remain intact as real living communities. Nothing less would be to denying the time honored meheuheu of people in those areas.

Sherwood is not just about trees. It’s about the community.

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