In the early 1990s, before the
arboretum’s existed, Manoa Valley’s lower slopes
were stripped of their native vegetation by excessive agricultural
cultivation and the overgrazing of cattle.
In 1918, the Hawai‘i Sugar Planters
Association purchased 124 acres of Manoa Valley as part of
a forest restoration project “to
demonstrate the value of watershed restoration, test tree species
for reforestation, and collect plants,” according to a
UH Colleges of Arts and Sciences newsletter.
The Sugar Planters Association put Dr. Harold
Lyon, a botanist from Minnesota, in charge.
According to the lyonarboretum.com Web site,
Lyon brought in and planted about 2,000 tree species on the
grounds, and then
the facility came to be known as Manoa Arboretum. In 1953, the
Sugar Planters Association gave the land to the University of
Hawai‘i, “with the provision that the facility must
be used as an arboretum and botanical garden in perpetuity.”
After the University of Hawai‘i took
over the arboretum, the Web site continues, the “emphasis
shifted from forestry to horti-culture…. More recently,
the arboretum has dedicated itself to becoming a center for
the rescue and propagation of
rare and endangered native Hawaiian plants.”
The arboretum is the only university arboretum
located in a rainforest and serves as “a center for educational
activities on plants, arts, culture, geography, and a range
of other sciences,” the
newsletter also said. Scholars from around the world, in biology,
botany, Hawaiian studies, horticulture, zoology, and other fields
use the arboretum in their research and teaching.
The arboretum has 13 employees handling
administration, according to arboretum research associate,
Raymond Baker. Lyon Arboretum
no longer has a director, as “all employees report directly
to the UH dean of natural sciences,” he added.
According to Baker, Lyon Arboretum “sees
35,000 people in a ‘normal year,’ including visitors,
students, and volunteers.”
Lyon Arboretum is home to exclusive plant
collections, said Baker. “We
have a section devoted to native plants, an extensive palm collection,
heliconia and ginger collections, and magnificent trees scattered
throughout the property.”
Baker also mentioned that the arboretum’s “setting
is unique, surrounded on three sides by mountains. And the waterfall
is nice,” he added.
In August 2004, the Lyon Arboretum was forced
to close after an audit by the state, according to Baker. Concerns
trails, hazardous trees, and old buildings [on the property]
were serious enough to alert the U.H. president” to take
action, Baker said.
According to Baker, the university had no
plans for a speedy re-opening of the arboretum, “So,
we got the public riled up…and within a month, it became
a top priority. Community members were asked to help by writing
letters to state legislators
and U.H. administration. The public’s reaction helped to
bring U.H.’s focus” back to the arboretum, Baker
said. As a result, $3 million was provided for improvements.
Lyon Arboretum was re-opened on Jan. 2.
Today, according to Baker, the arboretum
has increased signage cautioning visitors that the trails are
natural and to “watch
footing.” The trees deemed “hazardous” have
been removed, and the buildings of concern are now closed to
the public, Baker added.
Admission to Lyon Arboretum is by donation.
Suggested admission donations are $7 for visitors, $5 for kama‘aina
and students. For more information about the Lyon Arboretum,
or visit lyonarboretum.com.
Editor’s note: Kalamalama attempted
to contact HPU faculty regarding their use of the Lyon Arboretum,
but calls and e-mails
to HPU science faculty were not returned.