Arbor Day adjusts for COVID-19

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Volunteer David Macatombas loads a customer’s plant order Saturday during the Arbor Day Plant Giveaway at Kukui Grove Center.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A customer at the Arbor Day Plant Giveaway uses the illustrated guide sheet to clarify her wishes Saturday during the free plant giveaway at Kukui Grove Center.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    A volunteer loads plants into a customer’s pickup truck Saturday while a motorist waits her turn during the Arbor Day Plant Giveaway at Kukui Grove Center.

LIHU‘E — Helen Cox, retired chancellor of Kaua‘i Community College, searched through the Arbor Day giveaway options Saturday under the canopy of dark, threatening skies at Kukui Grove Center.

“We got some koai‘a and three different koki‘o,” Cox said. “That completes our native-Hawaiian garden.”

Cox was one of the early shoppers at the 2020 Arbor Day Kaua‘i Drive-Thru Tree Giveaway that opened to a “No Mask, No Tree” theme presented by the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program, a part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resource Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the Kaua‘i Landscape Industry Council, and a host of community sponsors.

“The trees are ready,” said Maurina Borgatti with the Kaua‘i Landscape Industry Council. “The planters were starting this year’s offerings long before the COVID-19 hit. The plants are ready to go out, pandemic or no.”

Each November for the past 115 years, Arbor Day Hawai‘i events like the Kaua‘i plant giveaway have distrubuted thousands of trees to residents across the state to create a greener Hawai‘i, states a DLNR in a release.

“This year is not an exception, though it will look a bit different,” the DLNR said. “Instead of gathering events, many of the giveaway locations will be switching to a drive-thru model where customers can reserve a time to come pick up a tree of their choosing, or similar.”

At the Kaua‘i location, the ‘ohi‘a lehua was one of the more popular trees being sought, the supply getting depleted within the first hour.

“Safety is a top priority this year, said Shannon Noelle Rivera, the project consultant with Arbor Day Hawai‘i.

“We are working to ensure that all of our events enforce smart, health-conscious protocols while still allowing the community to celebrate Arbor Day. This year has been exceptionally tough, but we felt that we needed to continue our tradition of distributing trees, increasing our tree canopy, and raising awareness about the importance of trees, now more than ever.”

Rivera said with global health being a main theme of this year’s Arbor Day, it is imperative for everyone to know about the connections between trees and human health.

“We want the people participating in Arbor Day to know that even by planting just one tree they are helping,” she said.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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