Greenwell Garden could reopen this summer

  • Garden Manager Peter Van Dyke tends to the Kalo patch in 2018 at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • Kalo grows at Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden Visitor Center is seen in this file photo. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • Janet Britt checks on a Hawaiian Poppy at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

KAILUA-KONA — More than three years after Bishop Museum closed the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden to the public, the nonprofit that has helped care for the site is aiming to welcome people back this summer.

“I went into this saying, ‘Dear Amy, I hope we don’t let you down,’” said Maile Melrose, president of Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden. “She gave a gift to the people of Hawaii, and the gift was just temporarily put back in the closet. And now it’s going to come back out.”

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The Friends officially became a nonprofit in May 2016 after the Bishop Museum closed the South Kona site that January. Ever since, the nonprofit’s members, numbering more than 400, and volunteers have worked diligently to keep the legacy of botanist Amy Beatrice Holdsworth Greenwelland the garden’s residentsalive and thriving.

All the while, they’ve also worked toward a day when residents and visitors can once again experience the garden.

And with $1.4 million in grants raised and a resolution to authorize the county’s finance director to negotiate buying conservation easements for the site headed to the Hawaii County Council, the garden’s supporters hope that day could be coming soon.

Melrose on Tuesday said the Friends and Bishop Museum have agreed on a purchase price and signed a purchase agreement.

Although she couldn’t provide details about the agreement, she called it “a fair price.”

A little over a year ago, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources awarded the Friends $750,000 through the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Legacy Land Conservation Program.

Then this past September, the nonprofit announced the award of a $550,000 grant via the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program under the U.S. Forest Service.

The Atherton Foundation has also committed $100,000 over three years.

A county resolution to negotiate the purchase of conservation easements on the garden, if successful, will boost those efforts.

On Tuesday, the Hawaii County Council Committee on Finance unanimously voted in favor of a resolution empowering the county’s finance director to enter into negotiations for the purchase of conservation easements on the Greenwell Garden property using the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund.

That resolution now moves to the County Council.

“We’re thrilled about this,” said Janet Britt, a board member of the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, after the vote at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Melrose said their goal is to reopen the garden this summer, and Friends and Bishop Museum are hammering out the details of a joint operating agreement for the first two years.

The two entities, she said, are exploring how Bishop Museum can help in the process of reopening the garden for the first two years of operations and programs.

“It was a great garden to start with,” said Melrose, “but we are going to make it better.”

She credited the Friends board as well as Melanie Ide, Bishop Museum president and CEO, in collaborating to reopen the garden for the public and develop successful programs for the future.

“She has been not just a breath of fresh air — she’s like a little hurricane of good ideas,” Melrose said.

In the meantime, volunteers continue to tend the garden every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Those interested in participating should bring a water bottle and gloves.

The nonprofit is also accepting donations at www.amygreenwell.garden. Donations by mail can also be addressed to the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden at PO Box 399, Captain Cook, HI, 96704.

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And as she and the rest of the board work with Bishop Museum toward welcoming the community back to the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, Melrose said she’s learned a lot leading up to this.

“I think this whole shutting down was a big realization that the things we treasure don’t always last forever,” she said. “And if you have an opportunity to step in and help that ‘forever’ part come back to reality, it’s been a pleasure — it has been a pleasure to be involved with the garden.”

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