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Group Preparing for Liliuokalani Gardens Centennial

Posted April 24, 2013, 05:53 PM HST Updated April 25, 2013, 03:58 PM HST
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Liliuokalani Gardens. File photo

No one could ever accuse this group of procrastination.

The newly formed organization Friends of Liliuokalani Gardens has garnered support from the state for a celebration it is planning – in 2017.

The non-profit group is planning a year-long observance of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Hilo park, and of the death of its namesake and co-founder.

On Tuesday the state Legislature approved a resolution calling for two state agencies to assist Friends as it prepares for the centennial celebration.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 173 was introduced by Big Island Sens. Malama Solomon, Gil Kahele and Russell Ruderman. It requests that the Department of Land and Natural Resources and State Foundation on Culture and the Arts help the group in its preparations.

Friends’ officers include Bill Eger as president and Harvey Tajiri as vice president.

K.T. Cannon-Eger,  Bill Eger’s wife, is a student of Japanese gardens and is helping Friends plan the event.

File photo.

File photo.

The effort will include preparation of an historical narrative of the park on the Banyan Peninsula and fund-raising for repairs and maintenance.

“Fortunately we have 2013, ’14, ’15 and ’16 to do this,” she said.

Cannon-Eger said the group’s effort was made much easier by the park’s extensive renovations completed in 2000 under the guidance of former Mayor Steve Yamashiro.

Yamashiro’s widow, Della Allison Yamashiro, serves as Friends’ treasurer.

Cannon-Eger has been studying Japanese gardens for more than a decade, and she is co-founder of the North America Japanese Garden Association.

Her studies have included visits with her husband to dozens of Japanese gardens during a train trip last year on the mainland US.

She said there are more than 250 public Japanese gardens in the US alone, and more than 450 worldwide.

But, she said, it’s a very small group that has been around for 100 years.

And Cannon-Eger said a long lead time isn’t unusual for such a project; she knows of one centennial celebration that was 15 years in the making.

The resolution notes that Liliuokalani Gardens was dedicated in 1917 with the assistance of the queen, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch.

According to research by Cannon-Eger, it was established through the passage by the Territorial Legislature of Act 53.

A portion of the legislation that created Liliuokalani Gardens, from the state archives. Courtesy K.T. Cannon-Eger.

A portion of the legislation that created Liliuokalani Gardens, from the state archives. Courtesy K.T. Cannon-Eger.

The plan, according to a March 9, 1917 article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, called for an application for “the strip of land that stretches in front of the kerosene oil warehouse and on to the harbor line bordering on Coconut Island.”

The law began as House Bill 215, introduced by Rep. Norman K. Lyman, entitled, “An Act Declaring and Designating a certain Tract of Government Land at Waiakea, South Hilo, County of Hawaii, Territory of Hawaii, as a Public Park.”

“That after due and careful consideration we find that the object of the bill is to provide a park in the suburbs of the City of Hilo where can be constructed gardens surrounding silvery lakes and about rock-bound inlets of the sea of great beauty on the order of Japanese landscape gardening that will add greatly to the beauty of this approach to the city, and further that the land desired is of little value for other purposes,” reads a March 30, 1917 report from the Legislature’s Committee on Public Lands and Internal Improvements.

The entire park including Coconut Island and surrounding areas such as Happiness Garden and Isles encompasses 30 acres. Cannon-Eger said the garden area itself bound by Banyan Drive and Lihiwai Street consists of about 17 acres.

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