Kapiolani Park photo by Miguel Minhalma
Did you know that The Outdoor Circle was instrumental in the creation of the City Department of Parks and Recreation? Did you know that cruelty to trees in public parks and along City streets is illegal thanks to the Outdoor Circle?
In the early years of the Outdoor Circle, neighborhood groups of volunteers concentrated on planting shade trees in their parks and on their streets. They soon realized they could not do all of this planting by themselves, so, in 1922, lobbied the City to form the Shade Tree Commission to help. This group eventually became the City Parks Board in 1931, and later the Honolulu City and County Department of Parks and Recreation under the new city charter. Thanks to our efforts, shade trees line our city streets and grace our public parks.
In 1914, The Outdoor Circle also hired Honolulu’s first tree trimmer, Mr. Olivera, (for 25 cents an hour) to properly maintain the trees they had planted. It also became apparent that these trees needed protection, and in 1920, at the behest of The Outdoor Circle, a City ordinance was passed making “cruelty to trees illegal.” This ordinance is still in effect today, stating “ It shall be unlawful for any person to injure or destroy street trees in any manner or by any means.” Thanks to our early efforts efforts, vandalism of trees along our streets is illegal and punishable by fines of up to $500.
Amusing anecdotes exist regarding our volunteers and their attempts to see that trees were properly maintained back in those days. In one incident, as reported in notes at the time, volunteers told of meeting resistance of men from the Harbor Commission in getting fronds removed from the coconut trees the Outdoor Circle had planted. “The man in charge refuses to take off all the leaves, saying the trees will grow better with them there… As he is armed with a gun, Mrs. Von Hamm cannot insist on carrying out her wishes.”
Incidentally, tree-trimmer Mr. Olivera went on to work at the Outdoor Circle’s plant nursery at Kapiolani Park for the next 28 years!
The nursery eventually was turned over to the City Parks Board in 1946, and remains there today as the Honolulu City Kapiolani Nursery. But that is a story for another day!
To this day, The Outdoor Circle continues to work closely with the Department of Parks and Recreation, municipal agencies, legislatures and councils to protect and plant trees in our communities and grow our urban tree canopy statewide.
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.