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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 19, 2005

Future of Moanalua Gardens uncertain as estate dissolves

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

The future of Moanalua Gardens, one of O'ahu's most popular green spaces, remains unsettled even as the owner, the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon, is winding down its operations and liquidating its assets.

The fate of Moanalua Gardens and nearby conservation lands has been up in the air since the death of Joan Damon Haig, last surviving granddaughter of Samuel Mills Damon.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

In filings with the state Probate Court, the estate said it hired former banking executive Rick Humphreys to map out a plan for the garden and the 3,700 acres of conservation land that it owns in Moanalua Valley.

Humphreys, the former chief executive officer of Bank of America Hawaii and former interim director of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, will review the trust's options and will collect input from beneficiaries, consultants, government officials and members of the local community, the estate said.

The trust told the court that it would continue to operate the park for the public's use for the time being but said it would do so at significant cost. The Damon Estate estimated that it will spend about $600,000 this year to maintain the garden.

The fate of the lush 24-acre Moanalua Gardens and the conservation lands it owns in Moanalua Valley has been up in the air since the death last November of 84-year-old Joan Damon Haig, the last surviving granddaughter of estate founder Samuel Mills Damon. Haig's death triggered the dissolution of the 81-year-old trust.

Tim Johns, the estate's chief operating officer, said last week that Humphreys is still in the fact-finding stage but added that Humphreys is working with a number of third parties, including government agencies and nonprofit groups.

Johns said that any transfer of the Moanalua Valley lands to a private developer would require a lengthy and expensive rezoning process to change the property's conservation status.

Anna Derby Blackwell, who served from 1970 to 1982 as executive director of the Moanalua Garden Foundation which conducts educational tours of the park, said she hopes the garden would remain a public park even after the estate ceases to exist.

Blackwell said she plans to ask Damon's beneficiaries to set aside 1 percent of their awards for an endowment that would pay for the park's operations and maintenance.

"I would really like to see something constructive done about saving Mr. Damon's legacy for the people," Blackwell said.

Reach Rick Daysog at 525-8064 or rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com