Maui County Planting Plan is Arborist’s Legacy
By Valerie Monson, Special to the Star-Advertiser
January 15, 2017
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MAKAWAO – Whether he’s driving down Hana Highway, parking his pickup truck at the University of Hawaii Maui College or puttering around his home in Makawao, Ernie Rezents feels like he’s standing in his own front yard.
In a way he is.
When it comes to the Maui landscape, Rezents has evolved into its Tree of Knowledge. After creating the agriculture program at Maui Community College in 1975, he has become one of the state’s most respected arborists, coordinating a multitude of public planting projects that have beautified many former eyesores across the county.
uRezents recently completed his crowning glory: the third edition of the Maui County Planting Plan.
“Some have said this guide is my legacy and I agree with that; it is my legacy,” said Rezents from his living room where trees are visible from every window. “Maui is my island. I was born here. I grew up here. I raised my family here. I want to leave it a better place.”
Word of Rezents’ impact on Maui’s outdoors has traveled far beyond the palm fronds. In 2015, he was one of three arborists from around the world presented with the True Professional Award by the International Society of Arboriculture, such a rare plum that he thought the phone call delivering the news was a prank.
“That’s Ernie, he’s so humble,” said Elaine Malina, president of Maui Green and Beautiful, the organization that prepared the nomination. “This is one of the top honors an arborist can receive. Only one other person in Hawaii has gotten it (Steve Nims of Oahu).
“And what made this so unique is that even though Maui Green and Beautiful did the paperwork, the nomination came from the Maui community. We got all these support letters from people around Maui who Ernie has taught and influenced over the years.”
ALL THOSE years have included decades of teaching at the college (now called University of Hawaii Maui College) where he is professor emeritus, working with landscape architects or volunteers on planting trees or saving others, writing nearly 100 articles on the care of trees for the Maui News and, finally, providing the encyclopedic planting manual at the request of the Maui Arborist Committee.
“Ernie is just always teaching in one way or another,” Malina said. “He’s constantly giving back.”
What’s most remarkable about the latest update of the Maui County Planting Plan is not only what it contains, but what it does not. Keeping up with the times, there is a new chapter on including native and Polynesian-introduced plants and trees in various landscapes, but there is not a single invasive species recommended — except for turf grass.