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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

Big Island group aims to cultivate nature park

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

To help

• For more information on the tree-planting event or how to support the Waimea Outdoor Circle's efforts, call Block at (808) 885-4753 or e-mail arleneblock@prodigy.net.

A tree-planting event tomorrow by the Waimea Outdoor Circle will move the organization closer to its goal of turning an overgrown 10-acre plot into a quiet spot ideal for picnicking or napping amid nature.

The Waimea Outdoor Circle is preparing a plan to develop and manage Waimea Nature Park, located in the center of the Big Island town on state land leased to the volunteer group. The park is within walking distance of five schools and the town's commercial center.

"We don't have any other passive park in town. All the other parks are active parks with soccer or baseball fields, basketball courts or playgrounds," said Arlene Block, president of the Waimea Outdoor Circle. "We don't have any place where people can come and sit and read a book or have a picnic without any noisy stuff going on around them."

The park is also known by its Hawaiian name, Ulu La'au, or "garden of trees." Ulu La'au was documented in 1830 by the Rev. Lorenzo Lyons, founder of Waimea's 'Imiola Congregational Church, as the Hawaiian designation for the area. More recently the land was used for farming or pastureland.

It is bisected by Waikoloa Stream, which flows on a seasonal basis. Only about two acres has been cleared and planted so far. Block said when the group first began work at the park, access to the property was achieved only by hacking away at tall cane grass and black wattle. A small area was cleared of Christmas berry, eucalyptus and other nonnative species and now contains indigenous trees and a meadow.

In a belated Arbor Day celebration, The Outdoor Circle will plant 50 trees — including koa, 'ohi'a, mamaki and other native species — in a newly cleared half-acre spot next to the stream.

Block, a retired teacher, said the park already is proving to be a valuable resource for nearby schools. One group of students has been working in the greenhouse, propagating kupukupu ferns that will be planted along the stream bank, and another plans to map the entire property using a high-tech geographic positioning system.

Tomorrow's event starts at 9 a.m., with a potluck to follow.

The draft park management plan is available for public review and comment by contacting Carolyn Stewart via e-mail at mcsintl@flex.com.