DLNR Press Release – THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF ‘ŌHI’A LEHUA IN HAWAI’I LIVES ON IN WAIMEA
Posted on November 18, 2022 in Current Department News, Newsroom
(Waimea) – Established 23 years ago, Waimea Nature Park is the ideal place for family fun. Operated and maintained by The Outdoor Circle’s Waimea branch, the park was a jumble of invasive trees whose ground was covered in Christmas berries.
Cheryl Langton is the current President of local The Outdoor Circle Group. “The park started when people realized there was less and less open space, not a lot of parks and a lot of private land in Waimea. Carol Hendricks, a past president of The Outdoor Circle, was instrumental in founding the park and worked for more than six years to secure a lease from the state.”
Carol Hendricks died in 2018, but her husband Pete is one of several dozen regular and former volunteers who show up each week to pull weeds, clear invasive plants, mow the lawn and clean up the plaza. Langton added: “Some of our volunteers have been with us from the start. Now they are in their 70s and 80s and some have died.”
One, Leningrad Elarionoff, died just in September at the age of 83. It’s fair to call him the ‘ōhi’a Man of Waimea National Park.
“All of the new plants you see in the park are from Hawaii. We have the largest collection of ‘ōhi’a trees in the state and they all have different colors. Most of them were brought here from Leningrad,” Langton said.
In an interview a few months before his death, Elarionoff said: “We have here a collection of about nine different colors of ʻōhiʻa lehua. When people come here, they can’t believe there are so many different colors.”
Over the years he became an expert on ʻōhiʻa, delving into not only the natural history of the tree but also its cultural history. The Hawaiians believed that ʻōhiʻa and Lehua, ʻōhiʻa is the male and Lehua is a female, have flowers reflecting emotions that can emanate from an angry red to a very pleasant, beautiful, sweet almost white.”
The work of the volunteers, past and present, embodies the whole spirit of community forestry.
Heather McMillen directs the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program. “The Waimea Nature Center (Park) was one of our first community grants to support tree purchases. The founders and volunteers have done so much more than just plant. They have turned an empty, weed-infested ground into a verdant native forest for many different people to enjoy. The number of people the park reaches and the number of volunteers is remarkable. Many school groups visit the park for ecology, botany, forestry and more,” explained McMillen.
She added, “In addition to planting ōhi’a, they also raised awareness of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death when it started hitting the park. They were pumped! Although they lost a few trees, they immediately sought technical assistance and were proactive in management.”
This morning, Bob Masuda, First Deputy of the DLNR, honored a Waimea resident, Carol Hendricks, of Leningrad Elarionoff and the Waimea Nature Center with DLNR & YOU Citizen Conservationist Awards. Hendricks and Elarionoff family members accepted the posthumous awards.
“Personally, I have fond memories of being in the park with him Leningrad and Cheryl. Cheryl gave us an introduction to the place and Leningrad entertained and informed our Kaulunani council with lots of stories. He also shared ōhi’a pencil holders that he made himself from fallen ōhi’a. It stands on my desk as a reminder of Leningrad and the generosity he shared,” McMillen commented.
Langton concluded: “There’s this misconception that everyone in Waimea is wealthy and honestly, for many people in this community, this is the only place they need to be outdoors to picnic, gather with family and friends. We have five public and private schools within walking distance of this park. It is a good place for them to do community service. It’s a safe place to walk, you don’t have to worry about the traffic. It’s open every day of the week, it’s free, and it’s just a wonderful resource for the community. I think it’s a really great achievement, we’ve achieved a lot.”
# # #
(All images/videos courtesy: DLNR)
HD Video – Waimea Nature Park Citizen Conservationist Awards (Nov. 18, 2022):
(shoot sheet attached)
HD Video – Waimea Nature Center:
Photos – Waimea Nature Center and Awards Ceremony (Nov. 18, 2022):
Senior Communications Manager
Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources