Mauna Lahilahi Botanical Garden Saved by Community 1/28/20

Brittany Lyte, “How These Makaha Neighbors Saved a County Park from Crime and Weeds” (Honolulu Civil Beat, 1/28/20).

When police and social services agencies couldn’t help, this small band of neighbors took matters into their own hands. And it worked.

What happens when a treasured public gathering place becomes a hotbed of crime and vagrancy?

When it happened to Mauna Lahilahi Botanical Garden on Oahu’s Waianae Coast, a gutsy, bootstrap community group moved in, instituted a zero tolerance policy for criminal and unhealthy activity and reclaimed the county park from the brink of delinquency.

Of course, it wasn’t so easy. But when complaints to police and politicians did little to solve the problem, the park’s neighbors decided to shift their perspective.

Instead of begging for better law enforcement, they invested hundreds of hours to establish a neighborhood watch group and a monthly cleanup event series. They forged partnerships with the cops and county government, which facilitated green waste pickup and a homeless sweep.

Slowly, they squeezed out illicit activity and replaced it with wholesome recreation — fishing, hiking, swimming and picnicking.

There’s much work to be done to fully restore the park’s beauty. But a year after the neighbors took on responsibility for the park’s condition, families that had given up on the place are returning.  Continue reading