HFI and Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association’s (HFIA) are working with community partners to create the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest. This forest demonstration project is being created at the Honolulu Zoo, near the zoo entrance, adjacent to the future site of a Native Hawaiian Village. The Discovery Forest will be a representation of natural systems, creating a scene of Hawai‘i before the arrival of humans. The project will demonstrate culturally significant plant and tree species that once grew near traditional shoreline villages of O‘ahu. This replication of these coastal ecosystems will provide habitat for Hawaiian plants, birds, and invertebrates. The exhibit will be designed to demonstrate culturally significant Hawaiian plant species, the significance of place, and the kuleana of mālama ‘āina by integrating traditional Hawaiian forest ecosystems, forest stewardship opportunities, and innovative land-based education for residents and visitors. Jason Umemoto, Leland Miyano, and Leonard Bisel created the Schematic Concept Plan (See below).
Renown landscape designer, artist, and author Leland Miyano is working with award-winning landscape architects PBR HAWAII & Associates, Inc. to lead the landscape design planning process. Leland Miyano is a landscape designer, sculptor, author, and naturalist. His mentor in landscape, Roberto Burle Marx, was the most influential landscape designer of the 20th Century. As a naturalist, Miyano’s research of Hawaii’s endemic fauna and flora, date back to the 1960′s. Former United States Poet Laureate, W.S. Merwin, writes, “Those of us who know him have been aware for years that Leland is a true original, a living treasure among us, and it is fortunate for all of us that his sculpture, with all its representations of the irreplaceable life of these islands, is receiving some of the attention and honor it deserves.”
The Discovery Forest will reconnect urban visitors with the Hawaiian forest through three demonstration zones: Strand vegetation; Dryland Mesic forest species; and Polynesian-introduced species and cultivars. The project is integrating the interest of the community by engaging partners and volunteers in creating the project, which will benefit an estimated 750,000 visitors per year to the zoo. Community involvement is a key component in this project and aesthetic appeal will be valuable for zoo visitors. Wilderness is rarely so organized, and a demonstration garden is an effective way for urban visitors to reconnect with the Hawaiian forest and nature in general. Schematic Concept Plan created by Leland Miyano, Jason Umemoto, and Leonard Bisel.
The project will start with the strand vegetation of the coast and proceed to the dryland and mesic forest; using examples of indigenous and endemic flora. Plants that are associated with educational stories will be prominently displayed. For example, a depiction of a lowland loulu (Pritchardia palm) forest will be a unique feature. The landscape of the Polynesian-introduced flora will be presented and educational programs can be developed related to topics such as evolution, ecological lessons, endangered species, watershed protection, ahupua‘a resource management, and invasive species.
Hawaii’s native forests are our nation’s most endangered, and the lowland ecosystems have been the most severely impacted. By reintroducing elements of the forest, this project will return community rewards in the form of environment and cultural educational benefits, forest stewardship volunteer opportunities, and private and public partnerships. We envision a place that serves as an outdoor educational setting where visitors can learn about the importance of the sustainability of native and Polynesian plantings within a framework of Hawaiian cultural values. The vast cultural, natural, and historical attributes of Hawaii’s coastal flora and geology will be shared, demonstrating the bond that must be formed between people and ‘āina if both are to thrive.
Progress to Date
Early Childhood Advisory Committee
A Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest (HZCDF) Early Childhood Advisory Committee has been formed. The mission of the Committee is to provide guidance to HFI toward the creation of educational resources and developmentally appropriate activities at the Discovery Forest that will benefit students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, as well as early childhood educators. Early Childhood Advisory Committee members are Travis Idol, Sherry Robinson, Leland Miyano, Nicole Evans, and Heather Simmons. The Committee developed potential topics for Hawai‘i Early Learning and Development Standards for four year-old children and Hawai‘i Content and Performance Standard Benchmarks for students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. The committee has also initiated the development of activities and lesson plans. Early Childhood Advisory Committee Mission and Goals Early Childhood Resources Standards and Benchmarks Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest Draft Lesson Plans
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Natural Resources Program, administered by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation
Atherton Family Foundation
Halli’s Hawaiian Food
Side Street Inn
Others committed to assisting with the project include:
City and County of Honolulu Department of Enterprise Services Honolulu Zoo, Conservation Council of Hawai‘i, Kualoa-Heeia Ecumenical Youth Project, Mānoa Heritage Center, O‘ahu Resource Conservation & Development Council, Paepae o He‘eia Polynesian Voyaging Society Scenic Hawaii, Inc. The Outdoor Circle University of Hawai‘i (UH) Dept. of Agronomy & Soil Science UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
Stories of endemic land snails to be told at the Discovery Forest by Leland Miyano Hawai‘i had one of the greatest land snail biodiversities in the world. One estimate states that there may have been over 800 species in the past. Today, only a handful are living and those are under constant threat of extinction. The majority of people in Hawai‘i have never heard of our endemic land snails, and very few have actually seen them.