CAPTAIN COOK — Although the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden has remained closed to the public since the Bishop Museum shuttered it in 2016, life continues nonetheless at the 15-acre site in Captain Cook.
Much of that is due to the efforts of dedicated volunteers, who have ensured the legacy of botanist Amy Beatrice Holdsworth Greenwell and its residents continue to thrive here, all the while championing the day residents and visitors alike can come in and experience the array of life that grows here.
“You can tell the love that has been put into this place,” said Meg Greenwell, Amy Greenwell’s niece. “And how clean everything is and with no weeds, and it’s amazing.”
Now, with the announcement of a $550,000 grant through a federal community forest program, the nonprofit Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden have collected $1.3 million in raised funds that can go toward purchasing the garden from the Bishop Museum.
And on Saturday, one day after what would have been Amy Greenwell’s 98th birthday, the garden’s supporters celebrated the announcement at their annual meeting and open house held at the garden.
“This is a nice whack of money,” Maile Melrose, president of the Friends Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, told the group of members gathered at the garden Saturday. “So I think you should all feel proud of this board.”
The latest award comes through the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program under the U.S. Forest Service is designed to give communities the chance to conserve their local forests and offer recreational opportunities to the public while protecting water supplies and wildlife habitat.
The number of projects funded each years varies depending on funding and the total amount of funding ranged from under $2 million to $2.3 million from fiscal years 2014-17.
For fiscal year 2018, nine community forest program projects in six states will get a grand total of $4 million.
Melrose said the funding awarded to the Greenwell Garden is the first such award in the Pacific.
The grant, the work for which Melrose credited to Marie Morin and Janet Britt, puts the Friends in a prime position to approach Bishop Museum.
“We are looking forward to entering negotiations with the museum to purchase the garden,” Melrose said.
Like many at Saturday’s event — which included garden tours, ku‘i kalo and a birthday cake to celebrate Amy Greenwell — Morin has a deep affection for the Greenwell Garden and everything within it.
A wildlife biologist by training, Morin used the garden many years ago when she was working at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
When she came to the garden to get some native plants for her house, only to discover the garden was closing, it grabbed her attention.
“There’s all these endangered plants planted here,” she said, “and you can’t just walk away from those.”
Meg Greenwell recalled the weekends she spent at her aunt Amy’s house and remembered how important it was to her that the property become an ethnobotanical garden.
And one of the saddest things, she said, has been the loss of school tours that formerly came to the Greenwell Garden when it was open and the profound effect it had on young people who visisted.
“There are children that grew up working here that were molded into loving this garden and what it represents,” she said.
The Bishop Museum closed the site to the public in January 2016 after putting the land up for sale, although it continues to employ a single staff member, garden manager Peter Van Dyke, to manage it.
In May 2016, the Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden officially became a nonprofit and has worked with a keen focus on the day the Greenwell Garden can reopen to the public and once again offer its programs to local residents and visitors.
At the end of last year, the Friends landed a major win when the Legacy Land Conservation Commission, a state commission under the Department of Land and Natural Resources, recommended the department’s board approve $750,000 for the group through the Legacy Land Conservation Program.
Weekly weeding activities meanwhile continue at the Greenwell Garden on Saturdays — meeting typically at the visitor center — from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Gloves, tools, water and snacks are all provided.
More details about the Friends, including how to become a member, are available at www.amygreenwell.garden, where those interested can also donate to the nonprofit.