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Wednesday, October 11, 2000

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Jenifer Osborn from New Jersey captures a
ginger plant at Waimea Falls Park.

Many residents
favor keeping
Waimea natural

They want the city to buy the
land but not build a
theme park

By Harold Morse

The city should buy Waimea Valley but keep it natural and cultural, and oppose making it into a recreational theme park, residents said last night.

"Who needs an adventure park?" asked Momi Enos, Waimea banquet caterer. "You can go to Disneyland."

Such comments dominated a two-hour meeting that drew about 300 people to the valley's Pikake Pavilion last night.

The 1,875-acre park has been put up for sale for $25 million by a New York investor, and city officials are exploring the idea of buying it.

Waimea was the valley of the priests almost a thousand years ago, and it has a rich cultural history as well as a ground cover of unique greenery and flowering plants, said Diane Anderson, president of North Shore Outdoor Circle, meeting sponsors.

It is so precious that most people are surprised that Waimea is not already publicly owned, and public and private partnerships need to be formed to preserve it, Anderson said.

"Maybe making a profit is not what it's all about. Maybe there's a better way."

David Orr, director of Waimea Botanical Garden, said conservation efforts have gone on even though the acreage has been used for commercial enterprise. "We've had a lot of successes here, and it's a very exciting thing we're involved with."

All the plants, including rare ones, are documented in an exacting way, making Waimea one of the best-labeled collections in Hawaii, he said.

Some plants transplanted from New Guinea and now thriving at Waimea have become extinct in their original home, Orr said.

"The term world-class is much overused these days, but (Waimea gardens) really are world-class," said Charles Lamoureux, director of Lyon Arboretum.

Margaret Ka-ula Chun, kupuna and Waimea tour guide, said one of the priests of Waimea Valley was the personal priest of Kamehameha the Great.

Hawaiian culture found in the valley is what Hawaii should be giving to its visitors, she said.

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