[NOTE: I finally heard from MNGB Exec. Director Joylynn Paman on Dec. 31, and updated the story below to include her statement on the new fees]
Since 1976, the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului has provided a unique (and free) oasis of indigenous and endemic plants. It’s a serene place, full of benches to sit and admire botanical specimens that exist nowhere else on earth.
“By collecting, cultivating, and distributing native and Polynesian-introduced plants MNBG provides people with a gathering place to see and understand the important relationship these plants have to our economic, social, and cultural livelihoods,” states the Gardens’ website. “As MNBG reaches out to groups outside of the Gardens, we also draw people in through interpretation of our living collection (native and Polynesian-introduced plantings in the Gardens) and the hiring of local cultural practitioners to demonstrate and teach their crafts to visitors of the Gardens.”
On Arbor Day this year, the Gardens also handed out more than a thousand Hawaiian trees free of charge to anyone who stopped by. That the Botanical Gardens has been free throughout its existence was a minor miracle. So it wasn’t too surprising to see the following note tucked into a Dec. 15, 2013 fundraising letter:
“Beginning January 15, 2014, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens will be charging an admission fee in an effort to create a new stream of revenue to support the gardens.”
The rates are as follows:
General Admission: $5
Keiki (12 and under)/Kupuna (65 and older): Free
The Gardens, the letter notes, will remain “free and open to the public” on all Saturdays.
“It’s not that it’s gotten bad, but we’re trying to make an honest effort to expand the revenue streams coming into the Garden,” MNBG Executive Director Joylynn Paman told me on Dec. 31. “We do get funding from regular sources, including the County, and everyone’s always asking how we’re going to be more self-sustaining. I did some research last year on how other botanical gardens sustain themselves, and the fees we’re proposing are pretty minimal. We’re also encouraging people to become members of the Garden.”
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons