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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Waimea Arboretum gets its director back

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

David Orr, of the Waimea Arboretum looked over the branching of a Brighamea Insignis at Waimea Valley Adventure Park in 1999. It's one of the endangered plants the arboretum has worked to rescue.

Advertiser library photo

The city has hired Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden director David Orr to care for the botanical collection in Waimea Falls Park, a move arboretum advocates are calling a significant first step in achieving the community vision of the park.

The city's move to hire Orr as a curator on a six-month contract comes about a month after the Waimea Arboretum Foundation — which had financially supported the arboretum — laid him off as well as its three other remaining employees. Those laid off, including Orr, have continued to work as volunteers.

"We are very pleased the county took this initial step," foundation board vice president Mig Gaspar said. "Hiring David with his 13 years of experience is a great first step in returning the essential nursery, propagation, and record-keeping staffing to the necessary level for the proper care of the botanical collections in the park."

The park's arboretum has a collection of about 6,000 species, including native Hawaiian plants and species at risk of extinction. The city took possession of Waimea Valley, including the park, in February.

The nonprofit foundation took over the arboretum when the park laid off all arboretum employees in 1998, but the foundation lost its major source of contributions in April, which resulted in the May 1 layoffs of Orr and other employees.

The city will pay Orr $3,500 a month to care for the botanical collection, said Bill Balfour, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

Balfour said city officials will look at hiring more arboretum employees in the new fiscal year that begins July 1, but stressed that the botanical collection is not in jeopardy.

"Right now Waimea Park's management — their gardeners and their groundskeepers — are caring for the plants," Balfour said. "As far as the collection is concerned, the collection is being cared for and it's being monitored and nurtured. It may not be the absolute ultimate as to what people would want but it's not sitting there dying."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.