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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 10, 2002

Waimea Arboretum furloughs rest of staff

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Waimea Arboretum Foundation, the research and propagation arm of Waimea Falls Park, has laid off its remaining employees, potentially jeopardizing the plants under its care.

The arboretum director, an administrative assistant and two plant propagators were laid off May 1, but they continue to work on a volunteer basis, said David Orr, director of the world-class facility.

"We are really hoping for a rescue as staff will temporarily stay on as volunteers," Orr said. "But it is not realistic to expect them to do that forever."

The arboretum has a collection of about 6,000 species, which includes native Hawaiian plants and species on the brink of extinction.

The arboretum supplies the park with replacement plants, keeps alive 18 kinds of endangered native plants and is credited with saving numerous endangered species throughout the tropical and subtropical regions, Orr said.

Foundation members say the city and the park should do more to support the work in the arboretum. Until 1998, the arboretum was supported by the park.

The nonprofit foundation took over when the park laid off all arboretum employees that year.

But in April, the foundation lost its major source of contributions.

The city, which purchased the park in February, said it recognized the value of the arboretum but had hoped it would continue operating as it has in the past seven years.

The city wants to integrate the arboretum in the park when it hires a permanent operator, said Malcolm Tom, city deputy managing director.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.