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Community Celebrates Reopening of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden

March 1, 2020, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated March 1, 7:24 AM
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The reopening of a beloved Captain Cook garden drew hundreds of people, Saturday, as they came to celebrate nature and immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture.

For the past five years, Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden was closed due to budget constraints by its owner, Bishop Museum. However, its purchase by a community nonprofit allowed garden staff to open its gates in January and bring back the Grow Hawai‘i Festival.

“There’s no other garden on the Big Island that interprets Hawaiian plants and culture,” said Maile Melrose, president of the nonprofit Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Botanical Garden. “You can’t preserve Hawai‘i without preserving the plants.”

All plants in the garden are native to Hawai‘i. Melrose said the 12-acre piece of land is a living treasure, and certainly a refuge for Hawaiian plants and the community.

“This is ours,” Melrose said. “This is your garden.”

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Saturday’s event, she added, was a rejuvenation, a rebirth of the land.

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The garden was filled with people, pursuing booths that taught Hawaiian cultural practices, including poi and kapa pounding, carving wood with an adz, the story of the ipu heke, the practice of loom lomi massage, and more.

Educational booths included the education on indigenous plants, the Lili‘uokalani Trust, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at University of Hawai‘i, along with information about rapid ‘ōhi‘a death.

Kamuela Meheula was teaching keiki how to pound poi. She used to work at the garden before it close and took care of the kalo plants.

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The festival, Meheula said, helps keep Hawaiian culture alive.

“It provides opportunity to begin to engage in these types of actives with the children,” she said. “And they need to be outside.”

Stephanie Armitage along with her husband Paul were walking through the garden Saturday, enjoying every moment.

The couple said it was sad when the garden had to close. Many of their family and friends put a lot of work into the land. To see it reopened to the public was an exciting occasion for them.

“We just feel the mana all coming from the land,” Stephanie Armitage said.

The return of the festival was also exciting for them as Stephanie Armitage said it continues the Hawaiian culture.

“To keep up will the indigenous practices — I’m so happy to see the crowd,” she said.

The Captain Cook woman added this event will impact all who come through.

Peter Van Dyke, manager at the garden, said Saturday’s event was a renewal.

“It’s so great to be able to open our gates and allow people back in,” Van Dyke said.

While the garden has been closed, Van Dyke has been at the garden every day.

“There’s all sorts of general reasons why this (reopening and festival) are great for the community, but for this, it’s the link between science and culture, and that’s unique,” Van Dyke said.

“This is a big group effort and the community really showed up for this,” Van Dyke said.

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