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Hawai'i Forest Institute (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.
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.