Greenwell Garden purchased

  • Maile Melrose, president of the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, speaks at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden during a celebration of Amy B.H. Greenwell's birthday and annual meeting of the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in 2018. (Cameron Miculka/West Hawaii Today)
  • The Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden is pictured in 2016, the year it closed. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)
  • Maile Melrose tosses weeds into the mulch pile in 2017 at Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

HONOLULU — The Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in South Kona has been sold to the local nonprofit that formed three years ago to ensure it remain in Big Island hands.

Melanie Ide, president and chief executive officer of Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, and Maile Melrose, president of Friends of Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, announced Monday the sale of the Captain Cook garden to the Friends, a Kona-based nonprofit organization.


“This purchase represents a remarkable group effort,” Melrose said in a press release. “When the garden closed, our Friends organization sprang into existence, determined to open the garden’s gates once more.

“Our board members decided to think big, to apply for huge grants, and to never give up hope,” she added. “Wonderful volunteers have showed up regularly to attack the weeds. Without their help, our garden would be a jungle by now. Mahalo to everyone who has helped garden manager Peter Van Dyke and assistant Kanoa Kimball keep our treasures alive!”

Ownership of the garden — closed to the public since January 2016 — has been transferred to the Friends.

The Museum has pledged financial and programmatic support to work with the Friends for the Garden’s long-term success.

With Bishop Museum as a partner, the Friends will open Greenwell Garden once more to resume its position as a valuable and unique educational and cultural resource and place of rare beauty for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

The Friends raised the $1.4 million purchase price using public and private funds, including grants from the state of Hawaii’s Legacy Land Conservation Program under the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Community Forest Program under the USDA Forest Service.

Funds were also granted by the Atherton Family Foundation and Cooke Foundation, Ltd.

The County of Hawaii is also providing financial support from the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Conservation (PONC) Fund through the purchase of conservation easements, which will help permanently protect and preserve the garden.

“This is a unique collaboration with a local community-based nonprofit, private funders and funders at the federal, state and local levels to preserve and protect a Community Forest and working ethnobotanical garden,” Katie Friday, of the USDA’s Community Forest Program, said in the press release.

Melrose also noted that additional support from individual donors and other grant-making organizations made the acquisition possible, as well as Cades Schutte LLP, which has actively supported the Friends since its founding through pro bono legal work necessary for establishing a nonprofit and navigating this complicated real estate transaction.

“Melanie Ide’s decision to come to Kona in 2018 to meet with us and to share her vision of the Museum’s future was a turning point for our organization,” said Melrose. “Having Bishop Museum as an ally changed everything. It has been fantastic. But, the silver lining after these years of uncertainty is the garden now belongs to us, the entire community, and it can never be sold — ever.”

Overlooking Kealakekua Bay, this historic property includes five parcels of land and preserves accessible and well-explained archaeological features of the pre-Cook Kona Agricultural Field System.

The ethnobotanical garden contains three separate pieces consisting of Amy Greenwell’s former residence and garden, the nursery and garage piece, and the modern Visitor Center and parking lot site.

Combined as one unit, these 12 acres are now under federal protection as a Community Forest, the first ever designated in the Pacific region by the USDA Forest Service. The purchase also includes Paikapahu Heiau, located in a parcel in Kinue Terrace, and one vacant lot on Lilikoi Lane.

Thanks to the bequest to Bishop Museum by Kona resident Amy Beatrice Holdsworth Greenwell, a fervent Museum supporter and expert in Hawaiian botany, the Museum began to establish a unique garden in the “pre-Cookian” style in the late 1970s to fulfill what Amy believed to be a critical mission: to perpetuate the plants and associated culture of old Hawaii.

Today, plants that thrive at sea level sprout in sandy beds at the garden’s makai boundary: palms, creeping morning glories, kou and milo trees, and clumps of pili grass. Meandering paths lead past dryland forest shrubs and through tidy agricultural plots of kalo and sweet potatoes, wauke and bananas.


In recognition of the garden’s value to the people of the world, it has been granted a new lease on life. The Friends and Bishop Museum will be inviting everyone to visit the garden and new Community Forest soon, the press release said.

“We are full of gratitude for the tremendous effort made by the Friends to secure the future of the Garden,” said Ide. “Our goal now is to build a lasting and fruitful partnership that will honor Amy Greenwell’s vision, utilize all of the garden’s unique assets, support its educational and conservation efforts, and reactivate the garden as a vibrant community resource.”

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