City urged to move forward on Waimea Valley
|Josh Hartmann and Kalae Arnold dive off the rocks at Waimea Valley Adventure Park, which the city may purchase.
Advertiser library photo November 2000
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser North Shore Bureau
WAIMEA The North Shore Neighborhood Board has urged the mayor to proceed with condemnation of the Waimea Valley Adventure Park property despite a move in the City Council to defer action until the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has had an opportunity to purchase the park.
In a 10-0 vote Tuesday the North Shore board approved the Waimea Falls Park Proposed Master Plan and urged the mayor to proceed with condemnation as quickly as possible so that requests for proposals to operate the facility could move forward.
"As a board we feel time is of the essence," said Kathleen Pahinui, chairwoman of the North Shore board.
The vote came amid community concern over the future of the park and renewed worry over its world-class plant collection.
The City Council voted June 20 to take the first step to acquire the scenic North Shore tourist attraction, but also asked Mayor Jeremy Harris to defer action until OHA formalized its plan.
The director of Waimea Arboretum, David Orr, said that could take too long.
"It looks like OHA is deadlocked," Orr said. "And we have a real urgency as far as getting the proper care for the gardens."
The 300-acre park has 36 gardens, all based on separate themes of plant origin, family or genus. About 10 gardeners care for the 6,000 plants growing there.
Orr, who was ousted from the arboretum in May and allowed to return on condition he remain neutral about the park, wouldn't comment on the condition of the plants there.
Ray Greene, the park's general manager, said he was gratified at the board's action and believes the gardeners are performing their duties well.
"To the best of my knowledge, we're not losing plants from our gardens," Greene said, adding that reduced propagation and research in the arboretum, which is privately run now under the auspices of the nonprofit Waimea Botanical Foundation, may be contributing to the loss of rare and endangered plants.
Other people have noticed plants dying there, including Carol Annable, a taxonomist involved with plant collection and a former member of the Center for Plant Conservation Hawai'i. Annable said the gardens are deteriorating. During a visit a week ago, she said, she noticed that numerous plants have died. Weeds are a problem, and plants are poorly pruned, she said, adding that a broken water pipe has caused puddling that is drowning plant roots.
"It was very depressing," Annable said. "I'm very discouraged with the speed (the condemnation) is moving and the lack of funding. Because everything is so nebulous, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to do fund-raising."
Ralph Bard, a member of the Stewards of Waimea, said if the city acquires the land, more can be done to preserve the plants and the arboretum. The arboretum, which is recognized worldwide for its significant collection, propagation and record-keeping, operates at the pleasure of the park owner, Bard said, adding that the arboretum has no lease.
The National Audubon Society has shown interest in the park, and Bard hopes it will submit a proposal to operate the facility if the city can obtain it.
"We need the city to show genuine interest beyond saying we'll try to buy the property," he said.
City Councilwoman Rene Mansho said deferring to OHA was a courtesy.
"What really counted was getting the resolution out for condemnation," Mansho said. "The ball is in the mayor's court. My community is saying imua, just move forward."
New York investor Christian Wolffer put the 1,875-acre property up for sale in August 2000 for $25 million. In April, he placed it under bankruptcy protection, along with his other O'ahu venture, Sea Life Park.
The city and OHA have both set aside $5.2 million for the property.