LAHAINA - Plans to complete the restoration of Lahaina Public Library by adding a Hawaiian tree and plant garden on the Front Street side of the building are slowly moving forward, but much more needs to be done, Sara Foley, Maui Friends of the Library board member and project coordinator, announced this week.
"This project has proven to be at least as complex as the library facelift itself, because both Maui County and the State of Hawaii own parcels of the property, while library staff maintain the property. In addition, the site has important historical significance, including having once been home to King Kamehameha and his treasured taro patch. Approvals are being secured from the county and the library along with input from Native Hawaiians," she said.
"The library's Front Street lawn, which has stood as it is for many years, deserves an upgrade - just as the library did," said Foley. "The area is packed with history way before the missionaries arrived. This is where King Kamehameha built his brick palace and where he tended his taro. Some of the stone remnants of the taro patch are believed to be still there today and will be used to reconstruct a wall around a new taro patch to commemorate the days the king walked this land."
The revised plan, designed by Garden View Inc. owner Shawn McLaughlin as a community service, is based on suggestions from a wide range of people, including Native Hawaiians, Lahaina Library Branch Manager Madeleine Buchanan, irrigation specialist David Duey and experts from the Fleming Arboretum.
The plan puts the spotlight on native and Polynesian-introduced trees with educational signage and a dry land taro patch to commemorate Lahaina's importance to the reign of King Kamehameha, and the growing of life-giving taro that has nurtured the Hawaiian people from ancient times to today.
McLaughlin, who has been developing and revising the plans over months of discussion, said that the native tree garden is based on the need to educate about native plants, yet also provide much-needed shade and a place to rest in bustling and sunny Lahaina.
Trees to be added include four kukui nut trees (complementing one already on the site), six new lolou palm trees, three native kou trees and a Native Hawaiian treatment of trees and plants along the Front Street doorway of the library.
Other additions will include Native Hawaiian ground cover on the north side of the building and akia shrubbery with red kokia hibiscus accents along the Front Street walkway and surrounding the Maui Electric utility box.
A raised grassy area set off by stones will form a small, shady performance stage. Some foliage now on the site will be removed or trimmed as needed.
"One of the most exciting aspects of the new landscape will be a restoration of the original stone wall of King Kamehameha's taro patch and the planting of taro lo'i," said Foley. Cultural consultant to Na Aikane o Maui, Keeaumoku Kapu, will lead the planting and harvesting of the dry taro.
A sample of the patch was installed by McLaughlin with help from Kapu and his crew during Lahaina Restoration Foundation's "Celebrate Historic Lahaina" to simulate the promise of the IMAGINE community visioning plan to beautify the entire Lahaina Harborfront area.
"The taro patch on the property right now will remain until we start work on the new library landscaping, when our plan calls for it to be moved along the Market Street side of the property," McLaughlin noted.
One of the most important features of the landscaping plan will be a state-of-the-art irrigation system for the taro, trees and grass.
The system will provide both drip-lines and sprinklers, making it possible for the library to more easily maintain the site and keep it in good condition, McLaughlin said. Currently, the largely grass-covered lawn is watered manually.
According to Dorothy Tolliver, president of Maui Friends of the Library, serious fundraising is only now beginning, because the project needed nods from both the county and library. This effort has been underway for some time.
Maui Friends of the Library will lead the effort to raise the funds to pay for the new trees, plants, irrigation system, descriptive signage and landscape materials and labor.
Though professional gardeners will be needed for a good deal of the work, there will be room for volunteers to help as well.
Many people have expressed interest in volunteering. Foley said she would get the word out early in calling for volunteers.
"First we need to raise the funding; then we will set a specific timeframe for the work to begin and ask for community volunteers to help us," she said.
Maui Friends of the Library is committed to providing some funding, as is the Rotary Club of Lahaina, but "clearly we need foundation money and contributions from businesses and community members committed to making Lahaina a better place," Tolliver said.
Foley has been working with the county to secure a Special Management Area (SMA) Permit. "The County Planning Department has been extremely positive about this project and is being very helpful," Foley said.
"The road on this part of the project hasn't been easy, but if the community can come together as it did for the renovation of the interior of the library, we can produce a result that our community - residents, keiki and visitors - can enjoy for years to come," Foley declared
"It's the perfect companion to the library itself, providing both education about native trees but also a peaceful, shady place for library patrons to read."
The Maui Friends of the Library is undertaking the project independent of Lahaina Restoration Foundation but with close collaboration to complement IMAGINE plans. The IMAGINE project, when implemented, will refurbish the makai side of the library and undertake other major improvements in the harborfront area.
"Ours is a smaller initiative we're hoping can be completed quickly," said Foley.
Contributions for the landscaping effort can be sent to Maui Friends of the Library, P.O. Box 1017, Wailuku, HI 96793, marked "Lahaina Library Landscape," for deposit into an escrow account exclusively for the landscape.
Checks can also be dropped off at Lahaina Public Library or the Maui Friends of the Library used bookstore at The Wharf Cinema Center across from Cool Cat Cafe and next to the movie theater.
For more information, Maui Friends of the Library Coordinator Foley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 667-0589.