An overgrown ditch has been a source of frustration for Kaneohe residents for nearly a year.
Now, after reaching out to KHON2, help is finally on the way.
What was once an irrigation ditch is now a jungle of overgrown bush and trees. Residents say it’s become a breeding ground for rodents and mosquitoes.
They say they were frustrated because their complaints were falling on deaf ears.
We pressed the state for answers, including lawmakers and the Department of Education, which is responsible for maintaining the property.
Now, we’re told a contractor will assess the area.
The ditch runs between homes and Benjamin Parker Elementary School.
Resident Uluwehi Malama told KHON2, “I could see standing here toward the school before, and now I can’t.”
The Department of Education says it’s responsible for maintaining the ditch.
“(Before, this was) all gone, and it was clear,” Malama told KHON2. Now, “the teachers even say the mosquitoes are bad. My son’s in kindergarten and they have mosquito punks going to keep them out, so it’s like really? You tell me the kids are important to you, then why do you let this overgrow?”
Malama says the mosquito problem is so bad that kids in the neighborhood are not allowed to play in their yards.
Residents have also had to deal with rats and other rodents, and every once in a while even pigs.
“About a month ago there was another pig that came up,” Malama said. “We scared them away. They just ran away.”
Malama adds that her house nearly got flooded when heavy rain from Darby came down last month. She’s been trying to get the DOE to clear the brush for the past 10 months, but all officials kept saying is that a plan is in the works.
“Ten months, you should have a plan. You should be executing it already,” Malama said. “From 10 months ago, I’ve been getting told we’re working out a plan.”
So we went to the school, contacted the DOE, and state Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, D, Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Waiahole.
“It’s disappointing that there’s been this gap in maintenance, but we’ve been trying to work with the DOE to make sure that they get it taken care of as quickly as possible,” Keohokalole said.
Late Friday afternoon, the DOE sent us a statement:
“The City and County of Honolulu maintained the stream and trees behind Parker Elementary, however, once they stopped and the area became overgrown, the school reached out to the DOE’s Facilities Office to look into the situation. After determining that the area falls within the school’s property, the DOE started working with a contractor to clear the trees and debris. The contractor is scheduled to be on-site tomorrow to assess the area.”
We asked what caused the delay and were told: “The DOE was working with the City and private land owners to figure out the boundary line. While it is still unclear as to what areas fall under various jurisdictions, the DOE will be moving forward tomorrow to clean up the area that we believe we are responsible for maintaining.”
“We just want it cleaned. That’s it, because kids at school, our kids, we just want it cleaned,” Malama said.