It was a happy morning a while ago when I waited for a long time in a parking lot for a friend to show up - sounds grim, doesn't it? Grim according to the standards of parking lots as they are built here today, with lollipop trees and minimal shade.
But no, this was an old parking lot, at the Fairway Shops at Ka'anapali near the Maui Eldorado, where the original landscapers knew how to do it right. This one had the small, round, indestructible autograph trees you see everywhere these days. But it also had monkeypod anchors in the corners and a line of shower trees, the whole enclosed with a thick hedge of pink hibiscus.
I sat on a grassy curb in my patch of shade and enjoyed the morning breeze and the cascade of brilliant bougainvillea across the highway. It doesn't take much to make me happy, but then most people are probably like that, given the right things.
I celebrate the late Chris Hart for his farsightedness when, as a county planner, he authored our enlightened ordinance requiring trees to be installed in new parking lots and streets. Chris gave us the exquisite landscaping at Maui Marketplace, the former home of Borders, where there's actual shade, and shower tree petals drifting down, too.
I love the parking lot on Makawao Avenue where the pizza place is, also shower tree-laden, and the one at the David Trask Building in Wailuku. I love the bright show of silver trumpets in front of the prison, the gold trees in all their glory at Kihei Elementary School, the Hong Kong orchids at the Kihei Community Center, and the poinciana on Wells Street.
The parking lot at Maui Memorial Medical Center used to be a beauty, tended for years by the same groundskeeper, I'm told. New construction has taken its toll, and besides, with the valets you can no longer park there anyway.
I commend designers of the Maui Lani Parkway who took the courageous step of planting both shower and monkeypod trees, even though a few of the latter have become wind-trained, fixable with good pruning. I wonder who was responsible for this act of civic virtue.
Even Home Depot has monkeypods in its parking lot, and Walmart seems to be giving its showers a chance now. But these are the exceptions. I don't understand why the developers of the new Maui Business Park between Costco and the airport, who had a supreme opportunity to endow the island with a boulevard of beautiful flowering trees, settled for the lollipops.
The current requirement for parking lot trees is that one be planted every five spaces. But the ordinance has no teeth, so business owners put in the requisite number to satisfy the regulation and then cut them down with impunity or chop them beyond recognition when no one is looking. This happens a lot with the small businesses and malls.
I was so happy to discover that County Councilman Bob Carroll is doing something about it. Glory hallelujah, he just introduced three new bills that will go a long way toward keeping Maui beautiful.
One spells out new criteria for parking lot shade trees, calling for one "large crown" tree every three spaces and a minimum 25 percent canopy shading the entire parking area. The bill spells out exactly what a large crown shade tree is, so there can be no mistaking the intent. Imagine that!
If shade trees are removed, a permit must be obtained, and they must be replaced. This applies to street trees, park trees, parking lot trees, or trees included in the landscaping plan approved by the county. Imagine that!
The third proposed bill, which warms my heart, would save the threatened monkeypod tree on Front Street in Lahaina and others like it, by requiring that healthy, "significant" trees can be removed in the Lahaina Historic District only after written approval from the Cultural Resources Commission. Imagine that!
Carroll and his aide Gary Saldano deserve medals for taking this on. It's just the first step, of course; the County Council and the public have to weigh in, but it makes good sense. Think of the oxygen, folks, reducing the carbon footprint. Think of visitor satisfaction. Think of shedding the image of Honolulu's ugly cousin in this respect.
Look, the sun is getting high. People are pulling into the lot where I am scribbling this. Where do they park? Where there's shade, of course. Under the monkeypod tree.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.