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people planting a tree

The landscape fronting the Kaimukī Public Library is greener thanks to the work by students in University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR).

Library patrons were greeted by a plethora of trees until about a decade ago when they were removed due to disease. Under the guidance of CTAHR Associate Professor and Landscape Specialist Andrew Kaufman, students in the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences (TPSS) played a significant role in the project to restore the tree canopy.

people helping to plant a tree

Students in Kaufman’s joint TPSS and master’s of landscape architecture graduate course, TPSS/ARCH 634, interviewed the library manager and developed landscaping plans. The nonprofit organization Trees for Honolulu’s Future purchased 10 trees—a mixture of native and non-native plants suitable for the environment—and plant material. On December 5, undergraduate students in Kaufman’s TPSS 350 course got hands-on experience and planted the trees.

“This is the art of learning by doing,” Kaufman said. “In class, they learn the theoretical and the basics, and then actually put that into working measurements to put things in the ground that really affect the environment and people. I just feel really privileged and I think that the mission of UH Mānoa and all of the other universities and colleges is to give back, not only to the ʻāina but to the people. In all of my classes, I always try to have a component to give back.”

Hailey Catherman, who helped to plant the trees, said, “Dr. Kaufman orchestrated a beautiful finale to the end of TPSS 350 with the tree planting event, which incorporated all the lessons we had been taught throughout the semester. Getting the opportunity to apply our learning to a real life landscape design and installation in a way that simultaneously gave back to the community was a really cool experience to be a part of.”

Trees for Kaimukī

people planting a tree

This effort is part of a larger movement called Trees for Kaimukī, an initiative led by Trees for Honolulu’s Future in partnership with EnVision Kaimukī, the U.S. National Park Service and Smart Trees Pacific. Among the projects organized by Trees for Kaimukī partners include a tree adoption event at Kapiʻolani Community College’s Farmers’ Market in 2021 and the creation of a new rain garden on 11th Avenue just mauka of Harding Avenue with ʻAkia, ʻAʻaliʻi, ʻAlaʻala Wai Nui Wahine and Milo. According to Trees for Honolulu’s Future President Daniel Dinell, the organization will document the results of this initiative in Kaimukī and share it with other communities around the island.

“We are so pleased to facilitate this project bringing together expertise from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with a clear community need at the Kaimukī Library and fulfilling our goal to increase the urban tree canopy,” Dinell said. “We see this not as a one-off, rather the beginning of many such partnerships to uplift neighborhoods and bring the value of trees for all who live, work and play throughout Honolulu.”

“Kaimukī Library staff and its community are so appreciative towards the UH students and Dr. Kaufman who donated their hard work and time to making Kaimukī Library greener,” said Lea Domingo, Kaimukī Public Library branch manager. “We are also thankful to the various organizations and individuals who donated their time and energy. They made our dreams of adding more trees to Kaimukī Library possible!”

—By Marc Arakaki

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