PO‘IPU — The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTGB) has reopened some of its Kaua‘i gardens for the community with more to come in the future.
NTBG’s Limahuli Garden on the north shore began welcoming the community for self-guided tours on June 16, while both NTBG’s Allerton Garden and McBryde Garden on the south shore will resume operations Wednesday, July 1 for self-guided tours (McBryde Garden) and a limited number of guided tours (Allerton Garden).
During this time, garden admission fees have been modified to accommodate every member of the community. As a way to thank everyone on Kaua‘i for their support, self-guided admission for Hawai‘i residents will be complimentary from now through June 30 for Limahuli Garden followed by July 1 to 11 for McBryde Garden.
After the pandemic, NTGB will change its strategy to serve Kaua‘i’s community by drastically reducing prices for tours on McBryde, Allerton and Limahuli Gardens.
Before, NTBG saw about 80% of its garden tours filled with tourists but until they come back, for now, they want to connect more with local individuals and their ‘ohanas.
Membership specials offering 50% off for Hawai‘i residents are also offered for a limited time through July 31.
Starting at $35, membership provides one year of complimentary self-guided tours at all gardens, as well as a variety of additional member benefits, all while helping NTBG support its mission of saving plants and people.
Jackie Nielsen, a staff member of NTBG, has been passionate about connecting the gardens to the community.
“We are looking for this reopening as an opportunity for us to reach out to the community and really improve our relationship with the community and really improve our relationship with our community and be here for the community,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen has been working at NTGB for almost two and a half years and said she’d like to see more of the local population from Kaua‘i at the gardens.
“I think we have possible three big barriers. One there is a financial commitment because our tours and access to our garden as we know has been a little bit costly,” said Nielsen. “There is a high commitment to be able to get in and out of the gardens because you had to take a bus ride down there.”
But, it’s worth it.
NTGB has also enhanced its Southside Visiting Center, which is about 10 acres of magic life and relaxation.
“We have ocean breezes, cover spaces, outdoor spaces. Everything you are supposed to be getting right now as a person to keep you healthy mentally and physically is outdoor safe spaces to relax,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen said McBryde Garden is the flagship NTBG garden.
“It is our conservation and research kind of highlight of who we are. We are not just gardens, our actual institution is all about science, education, research, cultural engagements to continue the ethnobotany and why certain plants were used and why the diversity of plants is important,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen said in order to connect the community to their gardens, they will open on Tuesdays to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at 9:45 a.m. daily, they will lead a free tour which is great for keiki and ‘ohanas to see how plants grow here on Kaua‘i.
Nielsen also said they will have a daily noon hike and hope families will brown bag it and bring their lunches.
“They will get to see how to press plants, talk about gardens, there will be outdoor spaces that cover them from the sun and so much more,” said Nielsen. “We want to tune in to what the community needs to keep all of us mentally well, so please use us.”
Nielsen said NTBG would also have free yoga classes, and people can come for jogs, picnics and even take a nap under the shade of the monkeypod area while practicing social distancing.
“The 9:45 a.m. tour is great for kids, you don’t have to spend three hours, you can come for a half an hour, you can bring a book and spend some much needed relaxing time by our lily pond,” said Nielsen.
Nielsen said there will be a check-in process to go over the rules to assure the safeness of everyone including their staff.
“Face covering, keep your distance… if you are not feeling well don’t be here, we are doing the same thing with our staff,” said Nielsen. “We want everyone to check-in so we can go over we are protecting us, you are protecting you. Together we are respecting that peace just honoring everyone.”
Nielsen said COVID-19 has affected the organization. In her visitor program alone, she went from 20 plus staff on deck to now only four staff that will be doing all of the touring.
Nielsen advises residents to get their tickets online or call in advance and to check in once they arrive.
“Gardens are indispensable as a place of healing, offering a much-needed space for respite and connection with nature. As NTBG reopens and welcomes our community back, we are here to offer a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience in a tranquil outdoor setting. We sincerely look forward to sharing the gardens with new and repeat visitors,” said Janet Mayfield, NTBG’s CEO and director.
Prices, and info can be found at: www.ntbg.org
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.