TOC Policy Positions Revised and approved by TOC Board as of July 21, 2021
The Public Policies of The Outdoor Circle (TOC) are based on the Mission and Guiding Principles of the organization as stated in the current 5-Year Strategic Plan (2019).
Public Policies are TOC statements of belief issued to policy-makers, the public and community organizations on issues of policy affecting TOC, its members and the general public. Public Policies are used as the basis for public comment or Position Statements issued by the TOC President, Executive Director, or their appointed representative. Position Statements elaborate on Public Policies or apply them to specific conditions or events.
The Public Policies that follow have been approved by the TOC Board of Directors and are in effect until rescinded by the Board. Individual TOC branches may adopt their own Public Policies or Position Statements on localized issues so long as they do not conflict with the Public Policies that follow.
Following the Mission and Guiding Principles, Public Policies are divided into:
Section I: Preserving and Protecting the Natural Environment Section II: Enhancing the Natural and Built Environment.
OUR MISSION To keep Hawai‘i clean, green, and beautiful by preserving, protecting, and enhancing our environment.
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES Hawai‘i is our home and we cherish our unique environment. We have a duty to protect these amazing islands to ensure that our communities are livable, our families are healthy, and our spirits are nourished.
By planting and protecting trees and engaging in responsible environmental stewardship, we will enhance the quality of life for all of Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors alike.
We have a responsibility to future generations to engage in thoughtful planning and principled advocacy now that protects our environment.
Working together across our diverse communities, we are responsive to their unique needs, and able to leverage our collective strengths to establish lasting protections for Hawai‘i’s environment and people.
We seek to act as the environmental conscience of Hawai‘i, as a leader in addressing climate change mitigation, and a valued community resource.
We are One Circle. As a 107-year-old organization, we have a unique responsibility to continue the work of our predecessors.
Section I: Preserving and Protecting the Natural Environment
1. The Outdoor Circle advocates for efforts and legislation to preserve and protect trees in parks, public spaces and along street right-of-ways.
Supporting Statement: ● Since its founding, TOC has planted thousands of trees along streets and highways and in public school grounds, parks, military bases and botanical gardens on all five major islands. To date, TOC has planted well over a million trees on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Hawai‘i Island. We continue to implement and maintain beautification projects in public spaces throughout the state.
● After its founding in 1912, TOC planted monkeypod trees in Aala Park, mahogany trees along Kalakaua Avenue, banyans along the Ala Wai, royal palms on Fort Shafter’s Palm Circle, and coconut palms at Kuhio Beach.
● In 1930, TOC began a program of landscaping military bases for beautification, shade, and concealment, including planting thousands of trees at Fort DeRussy, Fort Armstrong, Fort Kamehameha, Schofield and Wheeler bases.
● In 1945, TOC began efforts to preserve notable trees, successfully campaigning to save the ironwood trees in Kapiolani Park.
● In 1950, TOC began an extensive tree planting program, including planting over 2000 trees in Kailua, on public streets, in parks, and on newly built school grounds.
● In 1971, the Lani-Kailua branch of TOC successfully petitioned the Federal Government to allow trees to be planted in the median of the Federal Highway System’s Mokapu Boulevard in Kailua. Once the petition was granted TOC has planted dozens of trees in the median over the years.
● In 1975, TOC spearheaded the enactment of the Exceptional Tree Act (ETA) to preserve and protect our most valuable and historic tree specimens.
● In 1992, TOC organized and implemented more than two dozen tree planting projects on Kauai to help repair damage from Hurricane Iniki. In 1994, TOC objected to the relocation of five mature Banyan trees on the Ala Wai Promenade and successfully pushed for change of the design of the new Convention Center to allow the trees to remain.
● In 1995, TOC sponsored the first “Shower Tree Festival” at Kapiolani Park, an annual event to heighten public awareness of Hawaii’s trees and natural beauty. In 1997, TOC established the “Green Hawaii Coalition” to promote the planting and maintenance of trees.
● Since 2004, TOC has been maintaining three Exceptional Tree monkeypod specimens on the grounds of the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua, with regular professional tree trimming done every few years. These are among the oldest monkeypod trees in Kailua.
● In 2009, TOC came out in opposition to the Honolulu Rail Transit proposal due to negative impacts to more than 900 trees. Federal Transportation Authority mandated that Honolulu Rail officials consult with TOC as to tree disposition (2011).
● In 2013, TOC was instrumental in establishing the Exceptional Tree Initiative (ETI) to recognize and nominate additional trees to the ETA inventory to replace those near the end of their lifespan.
● In 2016, TOC, with partners, established the Citizen Forester Mapping of the public-sector tree inventory on Oahu.
● In 2018, TOC spearheaded efforts to preserve nine mature monkeypod trees at Manoa Shopping Center which had been slated for removal. TOC continues to work statewide in preservation and protection of trees at risk whenever possible in all locations.
2. The Outdoor Circle advocates for efforts and legislation to mitigate climate change through increased tree canopy coverage on both public and private property.
Supporting Statement: ● In 2010, TOC signed on with the world-wide Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) to recognize the unsustainable carbon footprint of contemporary society and the urgent need to reduce that footprint in order to limit the worst damaging effects of climate change.
● In 2016, the TOC Waikiki Branch initiated a coalition of government, conservation and private groups to create a “Trees for Honolulu’s Future” campaign to broaden the scope of planting by a coalition of parties to address climate impacts. TOC is a main partner in the organization.
● In 2017, TOC launched its “Green Advocacy Initiative” to foster awareness of the need to increase our tree canopy coverage to mitigate climate change.
● In 2018, TOC, in partnership with the UH-Manoa Department of Geography, began the “Carbon Neutrality Challenge” to educate students about the benefits of trees in offsetting our carbon footprint and to get them involved in reforestation efforts.
● Numerous scientific and government reports have documented the functional and aesthetic value of trees and tree canopy coverage. Mitigating climate change, trees promote biodiversity, absorb rainfall, minimize storm runoff, absorb carbon dioxide and provide cooler temperatures through shading. Demonstrably improving quality of life, trees create more attractive outdoor spaces, make a city more walkable, cooler, increase food production and raise property values.
● Despite various tree-planting initiatives, every year Hawaii currently loses more trees than are being planted, often due to development of properties where large trees are cut down for buildings, but also because of antipathy towards trees for differing reasons. There is an urgent need for a campaign to stop the “war on trees.” TOC will continue to fight tree loss and work to increase tree canopy across the state.
● TOC supports an invigorated public-private partnership to plant tens of thousands of trees on public and private property, new laws to protect existing trees (subject to species and size) and new initiatives for educating the public on choosing and maintaining appropriate trees for a given site and the vital role of trees in carbon sequestration and carbon neutrality.
3.The Outdoor Circle supports the preservation and protection of major urban view corridors and scenic view planes throughout the islands.
Supporting Statement: ● Since its founding in 1912, TOC has been at the forefront of efforts to protect and enhance the natural and scenic beauty of our islands. All of Hawaii has been the beneficiary of our founders’ vision, and our organization’s untiring commitment to preserving Hawaii’s scenic beauty.
● In 1927, TOC spearheaded legal efforts to ban billboards throughout Hawaii.
● In 1957, TOC spearheaded enactment of a state-wide Sign Ordinance to control the size and location of all signage.
● In 1995, TOC called for undergrounding utility wires on federally-funded roads.
● In 1998, TOC was instrumental in stopping the construction of 100-foot tall utility poles on Wa‘ahila Ridge in central Honolulu.
● In 2004, TOC successfully defended the ban on aerial advertising.
● In 2004, TOC was instrumental in the passage of height limits for new commercial development in downtown Kailua.
● In 2008, TOC was instrumental in stopping the installation of 130-foot utility poles along Kamehameha Highway on Oahu’s North Shore.
● In 2009, TOC came out in opposition to the Honolulu Rail Transit Project due to negative impacts on important mauka-makai view corridors noted in the 2004 Primary Urban Center Development Plan (PUC DP).
● In 2011, TOC joined the lawsuit in opposition to the Honolulu Rail Transit Project based on its damaging effects on mauka-makai view planes and degradation of parks and historic sites near the project.
● TOC continues to work on various initiatives and issues that would negatively impact the scenic view planes of the islands.
4.The Outdoor Circle advocates for the preservation and protection of significant natural features and open spaces and lands designated as “Preservation,” “Conservation” or “Prime Agricultural.”
Supporting Statement: ● Since its founding, TOC has been actively involved in the establishment and protection of nature parks, forest preserves, botanical gardens, and lands in preservation throughout the islands.
● In the 1950’s, TOC organized efforts to restore the Ulupo Heiau in Kawainui Marsh and protect the wetland from development, which eventually led to the formation of the Kawainui Heritage Foundation in 1983.
● In 1970, TOC led efforts to prevent development of Mount Olomana and preserve it for recreational use. In 1973, TOC was instrumental in getting Heeia Fishpond designated as a State and National Historic site, in order to keep it free of private development.
● In 1974, TOC formulated a comprehensive plan that resulted in the Kualoa ahupuaa being added to the National Register of Historic Places, and Kualoa Point being designated as a State Park in 1977.
● In 1978, TOC was instrumental in the conversion of Diamond Head Crater from a military/civil defense facility to a State Monument for passive public recreation; eight years later it stopped a state proposal to develop a modern tourist attraction in the crater.
● In 1983, TOC spearheaded efforts that resulted in the Resource Management Plan for Kawainui Marsh.
● In 2005, TOC petitioned the City & County to void previously-granted permits for a light industrial park on the Wai’auia site at the Kailua end of Kawainui Marsh resulting in the State ultimately purchasing the property to be preserved as open space.
● In 2005, TOC was a signed petitioner on the Ramsar Convention declaration of Kawainui as a "Wetland of International Importance.”
● In 2006, in partnership with OHA and the Audubon Society, TOC led efforts to preserve Waimea Valley as a natural and historic site ideal for cultural and environmental education.
● In 2008, TOC protected the last remaining historic coconut grove in Waikiki adjacent to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Helumoa, planted in the 15thcentury by Chief Kakuhihewa).
● In 2010, TOC passed a resolution in favor of preserving “qualified lands,” designated in the Hawaii State Land Use Law as “Conservation,” “Prime Agricultural,” “Park,” “Preservation” or “Open Space.”
● In 2013, TOC helped protect the Kanaha Wetlands on Maui from development and preserve the area as open space. TOC continues to advocate tirelessly for preservation and protection of these lands, which are constantly under threat of development.
5.The Outdoor Circle advocates for the preservation and protection of public parks and recreational areas, including protecting their tranquility and natural beauty, and opposes commercialization in parks, and encroachment of open space in parks by public development.
Supporting Statement: ● Since its founding, TOC has been actively involved in the establishment and preservation of public parks and recreation areas throughout the islands.
● In 1918, TOC founded the first plant nursery in Kapiolani Park, later deeding it to the City in 1946.
● In 1922, TOC established the “Shade Tree Commission” which eventually became the City & County Department of Parks and Recreation.
● In 1922, TOC renovated plantings on the grounds of Iolani Palace for public use.
● In 1970, TOC along with the Makiki Community Association, was instrumental in creating the Master Plan for the newly designated Makiki-Tantalus State Recreation Area. Today, this 2000-acre area includes the Honolulu-Mauka Trail Network.
● In 1975, TOC, in partnership with the Garden Club, was instrumental in the conversion of a former Post Office parking lot in Downtown Honolulu into a mini-park with fountains, trees and seating for Downtown office workers.
● In 1985, TOC established the Sadie Seymour Botanical Garden in Kona. In 1999, TOC established the Ulu La’au Waimea Nature Park on Hawaii Island.
● In 2005, TOC joined with Scenic Hawaii to sue the State to prevent Irwin Park from being converted to a 3-story parking structure.
● In 2006, TOC was instrumental in passage of legislation prohibiting commercial activity at Kailua and Waimanalo beach parks.
● In 2009, TOC helped establish the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve on Hawaii island.
● In 2018-19, TOC opposed further development in the open spaces of Ala Moana Beach Regional Park to keep the wide open green space as designed. TOC will continue to oppose commercialization of public lands and encroachment of our open spaces by development.
6. The Outdoor Circle promotes on-going environmental education and stewardship to increase awareness of the essential value and importance of the natural environment and to encourage action to protect it.
Supporting Statement: ● Since its founding, TOC has been at the forefront of educating the public about the importance of protecting and enhancing our natural landscape, and mentoring the next generation of stewards of our aina. ● In 1967, TOC started the first recycling program in the state on Sand Island (Oahu). ● In 1968, TOC launched the “Mr. Mynah” campaign to educate school children about littering, recycling and maintaining the natural beauty of the islands. Recycling plants on Oahu, Kauai and Maui were started and maintained initially by TOC volunteers. ● In 1972, TOC proposed an environmental education center for Makiki Valley. ● In 1977, TOC spearheaded the passage of the Hawaii Litter Control Bill. ● In 1981, TOC, in partnership with others, established the Hawaii Nature Center in Makiki as an independent, non-profit environmental education center. Children from preschool to middle school now take part in interactive outdoor programs that meet DOE science standards. Climate change and stewardship programs are integral to the curricula. Since its inception, over one million students have been served by the HNC. ● In 1984, TOC started Kona’s Environmental Education Center. ● In 1993, the Lani-Kailua branch of TOC began offering yearly scholarships to Windward Community College students enrolled in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Over 80 students have benefitted from these scholarships over the years. ● In 1999, Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle partnered with the Women’s Community Correctional Center to offer horticultural training programs and support the Community Service Workline in the “Learning to Grow” series. Hundreds of women have benefitted from this on-going program over the years. ● In 2005, TOC provided tree pruning workshops to the Departments of Transportation and Education. ● In 2010, TOC created an Exceptional Tree self-guided walking tour map and brochure for Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. TOC volunteers led walking tours for the public of the special trees in the Walker Estate in Nuuanu. ● In 2015, TOC created a public access digital map of all Exceptional Trees and their environmental benefits. In 2016, TOC added an Educational Pavilion to the Ulu La’au Waimea Nature Park on Hawaii Island. ● In 2017, TOC, with HECO, used Google Trekker to virtually map over 50 sites of scenic beauty across Hawaii. ● Since its inception, TOC has produced and distributed flyers and brochures, organized public talks and led work days and service-learning events to “Keep Hawaii Clean, Green and Beautiful.” ● TOC has published books on trees, including “Trees and Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands” (1944), “Majesty: The Exceptional Trees of Hawaii” (1982), and “Majesty II: The Exceptional Trees of Hawaii” (1991), and “Trees of Hawaii” coloring book for the children of Hawai’i (2005). ● TOC has sponsored numerous community events to foster the appreciation of trees, including the Shower Tree Festival, and has helped organize and regularly participates in others, including Arbor Day, Manu O Ku festival and volunteer days at Foster Botanical Gardens.
Section II: Enhancing the Natural and Built Environment
7. The Outdoor Circle supports the prohibition of billboards and other forms of off-site advertising.
Supporting Statement: ● TOC is founded in 1912 with a campaign to rid billboards from the state. ● In 1927, after a 14-year campaign that began with reaction to free-standing signs on Diamond Head, Punchbowl, and Pali Highway and at the entrance to Manoa Valley, TOC was responsible for legislation banning billboards throughout the Territory of Hawaii, the first such law in the United States. ● In 2004, TOC joined with the City and County of Honolulu in the “Save our Skies” campaign which successfully upheld in federal court the ban on aerial advertising. ● In 2006, TOC successfully advocated for passage of mobile advertising limitations to be added to the State of Hawaii outdoor advertising statute. ● In 2003 and again in 2014, TOC successfully opposed a City & County proposal to institute advertising on the sides of buses. ● Since TOC successfully acquired and closed down the last operating billboard company in Hawaii in 1926, the organization has consistently advocated against all types of off-site advertising. TOC’s vigilance in prohibiting off-site advertising throughout the state has kept Hawaii one of only 4 states that prohibit this form of advertising clutter, which is a type of visual pollution and blight. Continued advocacy will be required to protect the State of Hawaii from encroachment of off-site advertising in the future.
8.The Outdoor Circle advocates for legislation to strengthen the control of signs and signage clutter in Hawaii.
Supporting Statement: ● In 1957, TOC spearheaded enactment of a Sign Ordinance for the City & County of Honolulu to control the size and location of all signage. ● In 2008, TOC developed a signs brochure that was distributed to sign companies and others, to educate them about both permitted and prohibited types of signage. ● In 2017, TOC advocated to prevent passage of a “Commercial Sponsorship Bill” allowing unsightly signage in City Parks and Facilities. The bill unfortunately passed but TOC continues to collaborate with the City administration on its implementation to mitigate negative potential effects. ● Since the passage of the 1957 Sign Ordinance, TOC has been a community watchdog for obtrusive signs and has been consulted many times by individuals, community groups and government agencies for its opinion and input on the quality and appropriateness of proposed signs. ● For decades, TOC has served as a clearinghouse for community complaints about potential illegal signs, and regularly follows up with sign enforcement officials to correct these when necessary. ● Although there are few restrictions on the display of political signs on private property, TOC has developed guidelines for their display and periodically reminds and encourages candidates to follow them.
9. The Outdoor Circle supports limits on the placement and number of outdoor murals to ensure that individually and collectively they aesthetically enhance the built environment and protect Hawaii's natural beauty, scenic view planes and urban view corridors, without negatively impacting public welfare and safety for pedestrian and multimodal transportation networks.
10. The Outdoor Circle advocates for the placement of utility wires underground in urban areas and on main streets of suburban communities.
Supporting Statement: ● TOC advocates undergrounding not only for visual enhancement but also to minimize street tree damage by utility companies trying to protect overhead wires. TOC has supported successful undergrounding of utilities in developed urban areas such as Kailua Road and Ala Moana Blvd. and will continue to seek innovative and cost-effective means to make such improvements in other parts of the built environment. ● In 1955, TOC started the first campaign to place utility wiring underground. ● In 1993, TOC initiated legislation to underground utilities wires along federal-aid highways. In 1995, TOC spearheaded successful legislation requiring underground utilities for all new residential subdivisions. ● In 1995, TOC also formed the Safe Power Action Network to oppose the construction of the Kamoku-Pukele 138,000-volt transmission line. ● In 2002, TOC obtained a court order to prevent Hawaiian Electric Company from obtaining a Conservation District Use Permit which would have placed 90-to130-foot-high towers on Wa‘ahila Ridge.
11.The Outdoor Circle advocates for efforts and legislation to enhance the quality of life for residents and to improve urban livability.
Supporting Statement: ● TOC supports our State Land Use Ordinance Policy, whose intent and purpose is “to regulate land use in a manner that will encourage orderly development in accordance with adopted land use policies, including the city's general plan, and development and sustainable communities plans, and, as may be appropriate, adopted neighborhood plans, and to promote and protect the public health, safety and welfare.” ● In 1973, TOC conceived the “Lei of Green” vision with shorelines primarily devoted to parks and open space. On Oahu, TOC advocated for efforts and legislation to begin this vision with a continuous landscaped pedestrian pathway along the south shore from Koko Head to the airport. This vision takes on increased importance today because of the recognition that climate change is already causing shoreline erosion in many parts of Hawai’i making the shoreline area more suited to serve as green belts and landscaped open spaces instead of continued dense development. ● In 2003, TOC established a separate walking and bike path along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore of Oahu. ● In 2010, TOC supported the implementation of the federal “Complete Streets” program to ensure that city streets are accessible to all forms of transportation as well as cars. ● In 2014, TOC was instrumental in the establishment of Hawai‘i’s Environmental Court to improve enforcement of laws protecting the environment, only the second statewide environmental court in the United States (after Vermont in 1990). ● In the past two decades, parts of Honolulu have experienced a dramatic shift to high-density housing in high-rise towers. As part of its mission to enhance the quality of life, TOC will form partnerships with other community organizations to find ways to enhance livability for resident in new high-density neighborhoods. ● TOC supports efforts and legislation to improve access to parks and walkways, minimize street and vehicle noise and control the spread of nighttime lighting from adjacent buildings, along with other quality of life and sustainability issues in our state.