A Message from our Executive Director
Welcome to this issue of The Greenleaf, where we share some updates on our statewide and branch activities from 2022. It was a wonderful year of tree giveaways and projects across the state. As we fully emerge from the pandemic, we can look forward to our continued robust presence in preventing or stopping visual blight, advocating for and planting trees in our communities, and generally keeping Hawai‘i clean, green, beautiful, livable and sustainable.
The newsletter also includes a few of The Outdoor Circle's accomplishments from our storied history. It speaks to the the influence the organization has had in shaping the environmental health of the islands since 1912. To see more of our history, check out TOC's Legacy & Lasting Impact on Hawai‘i.
At the heart of our organization is our incredible volunteer leadership at the branch and state level. These dedicated and hard-working stalwarts of the organization continue to show the kind of leadership that helps make our islands a better place to live, as has been done for 111 years. For all who have served or currently serve in these roles, we owe our sincere and unending thanks for the work you do to ensure that our branches and statewide organization remain vibrant—mahalo nui loa.
Likewise, you, as a member or donor, are the lifeblood of our organization. The Outdoor Circle thrives because of you. You understand our importance to Hawai‘i and our communities, past, present and future. We sincerely thank you for your enduring support and commitment to our mission.
Did you know The Outdoor Circle was started by seven women before they were legally allowed to vote?
Cherilla Storrs Lowrey, first President of The Outdoor Circle, with the Executive Committee, 1916
The Outdoor Circle was started in 1912 by seven women: Anna Rice Cooke, Mrs. Isaac Cox, Francis Lawrence, Cherilla Storrs Lowrey, Laura Sherman, Kulunanu Ward, and Ida Waterhouse. Their united goal was to beautify Hawai‘i. They started in Honolulu by planting trees and creating a campaign to oppose billboards which dotted the landscape at the time. Their efforts grew to include the entire island of Oahu as well as other islands across the state.
Over 111 years later, The Outdoor Circle is responsible for planting hundreds of thousands of trees, establishing public fountains, parks, playgrounds, and gardens across the island chain while championing the conservation of native trees and shrubs, spawning generations of environmental stewards, and working to keep unsightly outdoor signage and visual blight under control.
We are extremely grateful to these seven visionary women whose influence has spanned generations and will continue to do so for many generations to come.
Aloha Outdoor Circle Members and Supporters,
As I start my second term as TOC President, I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year and welcome your input and feedback on any issues you feel are important, as we seek to better engage with our diverse communities statewide and be responsive to their unique needs.
This past year marked The Outdoor Circle’s 110th Anniversary. Over the last eleven decades since our founding in 1912, Hawai‘i has seen a lot of change. But one thing that has never changed in all that time is our organization’s dedication to its mission of “Keeping Hawai‘i Clean, Green and Beautiful.”
All of our tree planting, beautification and environmental advocacy accomplishments over the years are examples of how collaborative efforts between our volunteers, community groups, and city and state entities have made Hawai‘i better by enhancing and preserving the beauty around us and inspiring generations of environmental stewards.
Through our collective strengths, The Outdoor Circle has been able to improve the management of and protections for our green infrastructure, stimulate public appreciation for the value of our urban forests, and establish lasting protections for Hawai‘i's environment and people. Our State now enjoys a billboard-free environment, street tree programs, urban park systems, and a statewide network of branches and volunteers invested in maintaining public green-spaces and the natural beauty of their communities.
This has all been possible for these past decades because of you, our loyal members and supporters, who continue to be committed to and actively support our mission and our vision for Hawai‘i and its future. Whether it be through volunteering your time, or contributing financially, your support has sustained us and helped the organization thrive. As such, you should all be very proud of your contribution to our success over the years, and you should also take pride in the fact that your contributions have had a significant and positive impact on the lives of everyone in Hawai‘i.
All of Hawai‘i has been the beneficiary of the work of The Outdoor Circle, and it is imperative that our work continue. Every day, every month, every year, in both small and large ways, we continue to make inroads and affect positive change. And we have YOU to thank for that!
Mahalo from all of us at The Outdoor Circle!
President, The Outdoor Circle
The Outdoor Circle celebrated our 110th anniversary, in 2002, with events throughout the year including statewide tree giveaways, a historical performance at the Hawaiian Mission Houses, and proclamations from Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, and Hawai‘i Mayor Mitch Roth, who both declared November as Hawai‘i Arbor Month.
Branches of The Outdoor Circle Held Tree Giveaways
To celebrate Hawai‘i Arbor Day (now Hawai‘i Arbor Month), seven of our branches held tree giveaways in November 2022 where fruit and flowering trees, as well as plants and free seed packets were distributed. We thank the East Hawaii Branch, Kauai Branch, Lani-Kailua Branch, Manoa Branch, North Shore Branch, Waikoloa Village Branch, and the Waimea Branch, for participating and giving away thousands of free trees to communities across the state.
Photo: Manoa Outdoor Circle's 1,000 Tree Giveaway.
Hawaiian Mission Houses ~ Footprints on the Land
In October 2022, The Outdoor Circle sponsored a performance of Footprints on the Land, that featured historical vignettes created by Hawaiian Mission Houses. The theme of the evening were four luminaries of Hawai‘i’s natural history.
Cherilla Lowrey, The Outdoor Circle’s first President, talked about how the organization was formed and her role in guiding it, and was portrayed by Karen Valasek. Joseph Rock, the famed botanist, who authored the first book on native trees in Hawai‘i, was portrayed by Keven Keaveney; Annie Alexander, a botanist and paleontologist, considered the mother of modern museum education was portrayed by Rasa Fournier; and Charles Judd, an early Territorial forester who pioneered conservation techniques with tree planting was portrayed by Adam LeFebvre.
We were honored that descendants of Annie Alexander, Charles Judd, and Cherilla Lowrey were in attendance at the evening’s performance.
Photo: Karen Valasek, portraying Cherilla Lowrey, first President of The Outdoor Circle.
November is Hawai‘i Arbor Month!
Hawai‘i Arbor Day, which is traditionally celebrated the first week in November, will now be celebrated as Hawai‘i Arbor Month. The Outdoor Circle accepted a Proclamation from Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who made the declaration in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Shade Tree Commission, established in 1922 with help of The Outdoor Circle.
The first group appointed to the commission included the President of The Outdoor Circle, the City and County Engineer, the Superintendent of the City and County of Honolulu Parks and Playgrounds, the Superintendent of Forestry of the Territory of Hawai‘i, and a nominee from the public utility corporation. The Shade Tree Commission eventually became the City Division of Urban Forestry (DUF) that plants, maintains and preserves trees on city streets and in parks.
Photo: Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi with TOC representatives: Winston Welch, Steve Mechler, Mimi Bornhorst Gaddis, Diane Harding, and Myles Ritchie.
Lady Bird Johnson helping The Outdoor Circle plant Singapore plumeria trees on the grounds of the East-West Center at the University of Hawai‘i in 1966.
2022 marked the 110th anniversary of the founding of The Outdoor Circle, the oldest environmental organization in Hawai‘i. Although well-known for advocating for statewide legislation that banned billboards, since our founding our focus has been on beautification and planting of beautiful and cooling shade trees throughout the islands.
In 1912, our seven founders took on their first beautification project, planting 28 monkeypod trees in Aala Park to "shade the children's play area." That was followed shortly by tree-planting on Kalakaua Avenue with scores of true mahogany trees, hundreds of coconut palms, and more than a thousand oleanders to beautify the entrance to Waikiki.
Many projects quickly followed as residents were taken by the idea of a "City Beautiful" campaign: shower trees along Vineyard Boulevard, kukui trees on Tantalus and Round Top Drive and canopy shade trees in Thomas Square and parks in Kalihi, Pauoa, and Alapai Plaza. Queen's Hospital, the grounds of ‘lolani Palace and Queen Emma Summer Palace were also some beneficiaries of our earliest tree plantings.
The success of these efforts led to the 1922 creation, at the behest of The Outdoor Circle, of the Shade Tree Commission within the Honolulu city government to help set guidelines to beautify the city and plant trees. This commission would later become the genesis of the city's Division of Urban Forestry.
In the four decades following its founding, Outdoor Circle members planted tens of thousands of trees throughout Honolulu and Leeward Oahu beautifying not only our streets, schools, playgrounds and parks, but military bases as well. In the late 1940s, newly formed branches of The Outdoor Circle extended efforts into communities across Oahu and then to Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i Island, with a focus on all manner of projects of local interest. These are as varied as park adoptions, preserving and protecting critical wetlands and scenic view planes, and spearheading tree plantings and tree giveaways. Our branches created community and botanical gardens and established educational programs and scholarships to mentor our future environmental stewards.
Our tree plantings have continued unabated over this century-plus history and proud legacy. The large shade trees we all enjoy today in our urban areas were most likely planted or advanced by The Outdoor Circle - work that continues to the present.
From many scientific studies, we realize trees are essential to sustain and uplift our lives in important ways. Shade trees create dramatically cooler urban temperatures which allow for more walkable, vibrant and livable neighborhoods. They also improve mental and physical health, capture rainwater, and help mitigate global warming, among many other benefits they provide.
In recognition of the critical value of trees, the branches of The Outdoor Circle, in conjunction with Hawai‘i's Arbor Day which is celebrated annually in November, held tree giveaways throughout the state to encourage residents to plant trees on their property. (For more information, please visit www.outdoorcircle.org.)
Planting trees is an easy way for all of us to both enhance our environment and help preserve the planet for future generations. The vital importance of trees, and shade trees in particular, continues to be at the heart of the mission of The Outdoor Circle. We welcome everyone to join our continuing and focused mission of keeping Hawai‘i a clean, green, beautiful, sustainable and livable place. Please join with us in celebrating the beauty and importance of trees in our lives, for today and our future.
This essay by Scott R. Wilson, Immediate Past President of The Outdoor Circle,
appeared in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, 10/30/22.
A significant update was made to The Outdoor Circle’s Exceptional Tree Map (ETM), with this version 3.0 update highlighting not only the many new Exceptional Trees on Maui and Oahu, but also the selection criteria and approximate age of each Exceptional Tree on Oahu (where data was available). This update was able to take place when TOC’s Programs Director, Myles Ritchie, manually digitized all of Oahu’s Exceptional Tree nomination forms and then used the data to find which of the seven selection criteria (historical/cultural value, age, size, location, endemic status, rarity and aesthetic value) each tree represents, in addition to their approximate ages and planting dates based on these nomination forms. The goal is to repeat this process for all Exceptional Trees for Maui, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i counties, pending access to nomination forms. To view the updated ETM, please visit the TOC website, www.outdoorcircle.org, where under “Trees” you will find a link to the Exceptional Tree Map.
In 2022, the Oahu and the Hawai‘i Island had their Arborist Advisory Committees (AAC) reformed after a nearly two-year hiatus prompted by the Covid pandemic and election of new mayors. These committees feature tree experts selected by the mayor of each county and are responsible for not only each location’s Exceptional Trees, but also act more broadly as an important advisory board for all urban forestry components. The Outdoor Circle is well -represented on these two AAC’s with TOC Programs Director Myles Ritchie as Chair of the City and County of Honolulu’s AAC, while Jonathan Sudler, TOC Board Member and Vice President of the East Hawai‘i Branch, has once again been selected to the Hawai‘i County’s AAC. The reformation of these two AAC’s was assisted with support from TOC’s Executive Director, Winston Welch. The existence of these AAC’s around Hawai‘i will assist in improving the state’s Exceptional Tree program and urban forestry best practices.
The Outdoor Circle’s root barrier research project, once again in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Kaufman of the University of Hawai‘i’s Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences department, reached its conclusion this past spring. The findings, which will be shared with the public through presentations, documents, free publications and academic journal articles, highlight this first-of-its-kind research for a tropical region looking at the impacts of different root barrier methods on common street tree species (Kou and Rainbow Showers). From these findings, newly planted trees in Hawai‘i’s urban forests should benefit by having better access to adequate soil volumes, leading to better overall health and growth rates, while also reducing the known and frequent conflicts that tree roots have with the built environment, specifically concrete sidewalks, utilities and roads. A showcase of the project site at the University of Hawai‘i Waimanalo research site will take place during the upcoming school semester, with the potential for a second showcase based on stated interest.
The Outdoor Circle’s green roof and walls research collaboration, with Dr. Andrew Kaufman of the University of Hawai‘i’s Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences department, will began planting this year after significant preparation over the past year. This research, being conducted at the Hale Tuahine, Magoon Research Facility in Mānoa, will identify which green roof and wall plants will thrive in Hawai‘i’s climate and provide important knowledge that can be used to shift from traditional “grey” to “green” infrastructure, allowing concrete buildings and roofs to host ideal species that will reduce cooling costs, increase biodiversity in urban areas, increase food security and be more aesthetically pleasing.
East Hawaii Island Branch: Our 4th successful Arbor Day tree giveaway was held in November 2022, in conjunction with The Outdoor Circle’s Shade Tree Centennial, where 775 trees were distributed. Mahalo nui to Myles Ritchie, TOC Programs Director, our quintessential grant writer! Our membership is up to 50 members and growing, and our social media is reaching more folks all the time. We continue to work with Hawai‘i County Parks and Rec and private shopping areas on tree care and maintenance. We saved two mature monkey pods from being cut down and planted several kukui trees with the Boy Scouts. After several years of working to revitalize Banyan Drive, the East Hawaii Branch, in conjunction with The Friends of Historic Banyan Drive, is finally beginning to see work being done to save the banyans.
Lani-Kailua Branch: LKOC, in partnership with Smart Trees Pacific, held a highly successful November Arbor Day tree giveaway in Kailua, where hundreds of trees and native plants were given away to Oahu residents from East to West and North to South shores; LKOC continued its volunteer workday events at Kalama Beach Park to remove invasive plants from the grounds surrounding the historic Boettcher Estate home and continued its “Learning to Grow” education program at the Women’s Community Correctional Center, where hydroponic lettuce is grown and harvested by students for sale locally; LKOC was warmly welcomed back by the community when it hosted a very successful “I Love Kailua” Town Party this past April, after a three-year hiatus due to COVID.
Mānoa Branch: The Mānoa branch held its 1,000 Tree Giveaway in November 2022, a huge endeavor as many of the trees and plants were started from cuttings and seedlings. Keeping with community sentiment, as well as environmental concerns and the proposed site being preservation land, the Mānoa Board of Directors voted against the Manoa Banyan Court housing development, proposed by the Lin Yee Chung Association on the forested parcel adjacent to and owned by the Manoa Chinese Cemetery. The branch continued to be in contact and advisement with the University of Hawai‘i on building projects, such as the Atherton House; and continued community service projects like clean-ups of Kamānele Park and Mānoa District Park. The General Membership Meeting in May 2023 saw high attendance and ushered in a vibrant and varied new slate of officers, headed by new president Gordon Aoyagi.
North Shore Branch: The North Shore Outdoor Circle had another busy year. We continued to work in Waimea Valley on the last Monday of every month to give Torch Ginger Alley some love and attention, and collaborated to hold a successful tree and plant giveaway on Hawai‘i Arbor Day. We went on a rainy, but lovely, field trip to the Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii in Waialua. Also we won second place for best aid station for the Haleiwa Metric Century Ride for the Hawai‘i Bicycling League. Our biggest news ~ our Vice President, Rex Dubiel Shanahan, managed to secure funding of $500,000 from the City for the planning and design of a new and re-constructed Ke Ala Pupukea Bike Path.
Waikoloa Village Branch: Did you know that gardening could lower the risk of dementia by 36%, decrease stress, increase quality of life and sense of community? That's what the 50+ gardeners in WVOC's Community Garden enjoy. Four years into this effort, the garden boasts a safe house for Monarch Butterflies, examples of aquaponics and espalier trees as well as vegetable and flower garden plots. The Waikoloa Master Gardeners gather in the garden once a month to share seeds and information. WMG has plans to create a demonstration seed producing garden plot helping to create a sense of community.
Waimea Branch: The Waimea Outdoor Circle is in the final stages of our roadway paving project into Ulu La‘au the Waimea Nature Park. Construction began at the end of March 2023 but this has been an ongoing endeavor that began over four years ago, with the help of Senator Lorraine Inouye and the successful award of a State of Hawai‘i Grant-in-Aid. A true community project, with little cost to our branch, the generosity of Goodfellow Bros. and Ali‘i Builders made this possible through significant donations of labor and materials by each company. We navigated through the construction process by closing the park to vehicle traffic and limiting group activities, when we were in the middle of heavy equipment operation, open trenches and concrete pouring. We couldn’t be happier with our new road!
The Outdoor Circle was honored to be the recipient of Bob Sigall’s Honolulu Star Advertiser 2022 Rearview Mirror Award for a nonprofit who helped preserve Hawai‘i. The Force for Good Award was given in appreciation of all TOC has done to preserve and beautify Hawai‘i over the last 110 years.
In his article, Mr. Sigall highlighted a few of our accomplishments including the planting of 40 Philippine mahogany trees on Kalakaua Avenue in 1912 (see From the Archives below), a gift of The Outdoor Circle that started tree planting projects all over the islands; how TOC helped stop the building of hotels on the slopes of Diamond Head; prevented high-rise developments on Magic Island; the Lani-Kailua Branch’s involvement in saving the Kawainui Marsh from being developed into a large housing development development in the 60s and a shopping complex in the 70’s; and our efforts in banning billboards across the state.
The full article (Honolulu Star Advertiser, 12/30/22) and some of our other historical achievements over the last century, can be found on our website: www.outdoorcircle.org (under About Us: History of TOC). In particular, you can find there a comprehensive history of “TOC’s Legacy and Lasting Impact on Hawai‘i,” compiled from TOC’s extensive archives. This document recognizes our beginnings in Honolulu and our expansion to the neighbor islands, and celebrates all that we have achieved and will continue to pursue in the years to come in Hawai‘i.
The Outdoor Circle Planted Trees on Kalakaua Avenue in 1912
The stately mahogany trees in the median on Kalakaua Avenue between South Beretania Street and Ena Road are representative of just one of the many tree planting projects to beautify Honolulu undertaken by The Outdoor Circle. Mrs. George Sherman, one the Circle’s seven founders, went down each morning with a crew of gardeners and personally supervised the digging and planting of each tree. In their continuing efforts over the years, The Outdoor Circle has replaced several trees that failed and added others. These trees (over 40 in number) are on the state’s Exceptional Tree Registry and stand as an enduring testament to the work of The Outdoor Circle. Pictured here are the trees planted in 1912 (top) and how they look today (bottom) at 111+ years old!
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.