The executive director of The Outdoor Circle is determined to protect Hawaii’s scenic environment
By Christine Donnelly
Marti Townsend walks to work most days, a 30-minute trip from Makiki to her office on King Street that not only serves as good exercise but also keeps her connected to Honolulu’s cityscape at the street level. That’s important to her job as executive director of The Outdoor Circle, leading several thousand members who all are devoted to keeping Hawaii clean, green and beautiful.
Founded in 1912, the group is well known for planting and maintaining exceptional trees throughout the state and for ridding Hawaii of billboards in 1926 — a victory
over visual blight the group is working hard to preserve in light of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposal to sell advertising on the exterior of city buses. Townsend notes that she also is an avid bus rider, like many OC members.
“Some people try to create the perception that you have to be either for Hawaii’s scenic environment or for TheBus, but that’s a false choice,” she said. “We definitely support both.”
Townsend, who grew up in Aiea and graduated from Moanalua High School in 1995, earned a bachelor’s degree in political philosophy from Boston University and later worked for two sessions as a budget analyst for the House Finance Committee in Hawaii’s Legislature. She also volunteered at The Outdoor Circle after college, which inspired her to become a lawyer; she focused on environmental law at the University of Hawaii.
Married and the mother of two young children, Townsend took the lead position at The Outdoor Circle in May 2012, after serving as the acting executive director of KAHEA-The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance. Heading any nonprofit means juggling many tasks. It’s no different at The Outdoor Circle, where Townsend oversees operations for 10 branches of the grass-roots group throughout the islands and takes the lead on statewide policy initiatives, fundraising and programs.
“Engaging people in the public process is a big part of what I do,” she said. “We all appreciate Hawaii’s natural beauty and the public green spaces that add so much to our quality of life. It does take a community effort to preserve and enhance that.”
Click here to read the article from the Honolulu Star Advertiser
The Waimea Branch is pleased with its newest addition to Ulu La`au the Waimea Nature Park, a concrete classroom-like structure that will provide community members with a durable and comfortable workstation for conducting classes, demonstrations and workshops. Over the past years of Ulu La`au’s existence, there have been many groups that utilize the park with no usable facility to accommodate them. With the “educational unit”, we now have the ability to seat up to thirty individuals and provide a space for a teacher, or demonstrator to address the group. Funding for this project was provided by Hawaii Community Foundation’s Ho`ohui `O Waimea Grant. All of the labor for this project was donated. Thank you to everyone who supported this effort.
While we continue to use the workstation in its current open-air condition, it is obvious that the space would be more functional with some protection from the sun and rain. Waimea Outdoor Circle’s next step is to secure funding for the design and construction of a permanent roof over the tables and benches.
Winter is made more brilliant in Hawai’i with the fruiting citrus trees and blooming Hong Kong Orchid trees. These kinds of shade trees provide protective canopies that play many roles in managing a healthy ecosystem. Many of the giant canopy trees seen around the islands, and now deemed Exceptional Tree status, were planted by the founders of The Outdoor Circle.
Across the state, a good number of these exceptional trees have reached the end of their life cycle. The Outdoor Circle is committed to a state-wide Exceptional Tree Initiative, endorsed by our Governor and First Lady, both long-time members of The Outdoor Circle. This plan of action includes community members who steward the parks and other public areas where the legacy trees are planted. They will have our help in replacing their neighborhood trees with large canopied trees.A large canopy tree is definitive of the structure of The Outdoor Circle. Ten branches state-wide make a healthy canopy under which our organization fulfills our mission.
We start the New Year by welcoming our 10th branch in West Honolulu, seated in the verdant hills of Manoa. We look toward to Kapolei district to follow in these footsteps, and seeds have been planted for a new branch on the Big Island.
Our Administrative Board of Directors joins with me in thanking all of you who continue to keep the” clean, green and beautiful” legacy alive. We look forward to many opportunities to preserve and protect our environment during 2014. Our statewide Legislative Agenda is posted in this newsletter, a broad three-pronged action plan which was developed statewide during our Full Circle Meeting.
We ask you to join us in being an active steward for The Outdoor Circle. Here’s what you can ask of your friends and neighbors: Become a member, volunteer some time, and make visits to our website and fb page to catch up on our actions.
President of The Outdoor Circle
Working to keep Hawai`i clean, green, and beautiful since 1912
(Image: Hong Kong Orchid by Petter Johansen)
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.