Kula Botanical Garden owners hope to reopen part of longtime Upcountry attraction “in about a month” but estimated that sections of the gardens most severely damaged in the recent storm could be closed for six months to a year.
The weak Kona storm of December 5-6 that swept through the state earlier this month sent floodwaters rushing through the three ravines that cross the Kula Botanical Garden property, destroying bridges, removing a workshop and greenhouse and filling a koi pond with debris.
“The damaging part only lasted five minutes or less”, said general manager Kevin McCord, son of the founders of the garden. “By the time I got there, which was just a few minutes after it had happened, the water was flowing normally like any old storm. But it was the initial wave of mud, debris, rocks, trees and things coming down the mountain that caused all the damage.
The biggest damage occurred in the smaller ravine, McCord said. Mud crept through the walls and doors of his father’s house, swept away a new truck that McCord had only had for two weeks, and submerged a workshop and greenhouse until “there was no longer a stick.”
“It went to concrete” McCord said. “And then he took my truck and piled it on top of all the other debris. All my tools, my lawn mowers, my weed killers, everything I need to run the garden was in this shed. So it’s been a process of trying to sift through some of that slime and find some tools here and there that are survivable. “
Debris and flood water also destroyed the duck ponds and the koi pond; McCord said the ducks survived, but the roughly 40 koi carp, some between 30 and 40 years old, likely did not survive.
The garden, a popular place to shop for Christmas trees in the Upcountry, had just closed the season’s sales on the afternoon of December 5, shortly before the storm hit Maui. Most of the available trees had been cut and sold, but some that were waiting to be delivered to hotels and restaurants were damaged.
“The third ravine overflowed and went through all of our Christmas trees, so it was the least damaging of the three, but it still left a mess” McCord said. “It just scattered debris across the property.”
All in all, the botanical garden might consider damage by “The hundreds of thousands”, including about $ 100,000 to $ 150,000 for the house and $ 100,000 for the destroyed shed, McCord said. So far, most salvage efforts have focused on cleaning up all the debris, which ranges from tree trunks 2 to 3 feet in diameter and rocks. “the size of small cars.”
Once the area is cleared, reinstallation of the bridges might only take a week or two, McCord said. However, it could take a few months to rebuild the workshop and greenhouse, once a complete structure but now just a Costco tent that is used to keep the surviving tools dry.
The Botanical Garden has been a staple of the Upcountry for 50 years, a brainchild of McCord’s father, Warren, a landscape architect, and his mother Helen, a teacher. In 1968, in search of a place to exhibit Warren McCord’s work and seeing the need for more businesses and attractions in the Upcountry, the couple set out in search of land that matched his vision. They were about to visit a property when they walked past another package that immediately caught Warren McCord’s attention.
“My dad said ‘stop the car’, jumped, jumped over the fence and disappeared into the forest and came back an hour later and said, ‘I want this property’, because it had the ravines and the rock formations and all the things that made it special ”, Kevin McCord said.
The McCords approached landowner Kaonoulu Ranch and Oskie Rice, who said they were not selling, but ultimately relented and allowed the McCords to buy 13 acres. They cleared the invasive acacias, built decks and walkways, and planted a variety of plants. Eventually they approached Rice to buy more land and ended up with 22 acres, on which they opened the Kula Botanical Garden in 1971, with a wide array of plants to satisfy enthusiasts in addition to ducks, a pond of koi carp and an aviary to attract the attention of visiting school groups.
The long-standing roots of the McCord family and the Upcountry Community Botanical Garden sparked a rapid surge of support when the property was damaged. About 20 to 30 people showed up for workdays on December 11-12, helping to pick up mud and debris, and Kevin McCord is hoping to organize another workday on January 8.
“The community has been great especially some of our close friends have been there” he said. “They were there every day for two weeks with their friends, and the community presence and help was fantastic.”
At a time when the family should relax and enjoy the post Christmas tree rush, the work ahead is daunting, “But we must also count our blessings” he said.
” No one was hurt. There were people in the house at the time, and any of us could have stood in front of that wall of mud and debris, ” he stressed.
“All physical things can be replaced. It’s sad to see them destroyed, but it would be sadder to have lost or hurt someone.
* Colleen Uechi can be contacted at [email protected]