Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award
Congratulations to Kevin Gavagan, Recipient of the 2022 Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award
Kevin Gavagan, Assistant Director of Engineering at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, is the 2022 recipient of the Malama i ka Aina Award. The award is given each year to recognize efforts in the landscape and agricultural community toward stopping the spread of invasive species in Maui County. The award is presented by the Maui Invasive Species Committee, the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, and the County of Maui. Gavagan was raised on a carnation flower farm in Kula. At 12 years old, he was driving a tractor to help the family business. At 13, he obtained his pesticide applicator license, sitting in classes alongside experienced upcountry farmers decades his senior. He joined the Future Farmers of America in high school and studied agriculture at Maui Community College. With help from his parents and the Alu Like Native Hawaiian Scholarship Program, Gavagan earned a bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1986. After graduation, Gavagan worked on the University’s nitrogen-fixation project, the USDA, and some landscaping businesses. After jobs with a handful of hotels in landscape management, in 2001, he joined the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea managing the grounds and landscaping team. His combined passion for horticulture and his Hawaiian culture sparked Gavagan to lead cultural garden tours at the resort for over two decades. A quiet and humble man at first introduction, a fire slowly builds, and he becomes animated talking about native plants. He is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian place names and moolelo (stories) of Wailea. Gavagan weaves cultural knowledge into his tour of the native and exotic plants on the resort grounds, and lights a spark in all who join him. He is creating a sense of place for guests and locals alike. “So much of the life of this land is buried in modern-day tourism and real estate activities,” Gavagan says, “When I do my tours, I try to expose people to the beautiful history of this place through the garden. I try to help them acquire a connection and respect for this wahi pana (sacred place)”. In 2011, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts celebrated its 50-year anniversary. In celebration of the event, the international luxury hotel and resort company pledged to plant 10 million trees around the world. Maui was tasked to plant 10,000 trees. Gavagan reached out to the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), and in their first year of the initiative, Four Seasons Resort Maui staff planted 2,000 native plants on Kahoolawe. Gavagan returns each year with volunteer hotel staff to plant more native plants, and his eyes light up when he talks about these trips. “We have long since eclipsed the original goal of 10,000 plantings and continue to volunteer to go there to help restore the island.” He says, “These trips are not only a way to give back in alignment with the mission of Four Seasons, but greatly enrich us all personally. Kahoolawe always gives more than we could ever give it.” Gavagan’s nomination for the Malama i ka Aina award stems from his passion for horticulture, native plants, and Hawaiian culture, his leadership in helping to restore Kahoolawe, and the importance of preserving Hawaiian place names in Wailea. He has affected not only the industry and community he works in but countless malihini (visitors) and kamaaina (locals) alike through sharing of his knowledge and skills, advocation for native plants in landscaping practices, perpetuating Hawaiian cultural values, and his commitment to maintaining a Hawaiian sense of place within Maui’s visitor industry. The Malama i ka Aina award ceremony will take place on Saturday, November 5, 2022, as part of the Maui Arbor Day Garden Expo and Tree Giveaway held at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. The in-person event will feature home garden and tree care demonstrations by the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, cultural demonstrations and workshops, a “Hale Ohia” with games, prizes, and speakers revolving around the native ohia lehua, and a giveaway of more than 1,000 Hawaiian trees. The award ceremony will feature a short mini-documentary about Kevin, filmed by videographer Spencer Hyde of Dgtl Film. The presenters include Allison Wright, President of the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, Allison Cleghorn, Maui County EnvironmentaCoordinator, and Serena Fukushima, Public Relations and Education Specialist of the Maui Invasive Species Committee. This year’s commemorative plaque features a sculpture of a wiliwili flower by glass artist Jupiter Nielsen, modeled after Gavagan’s favorite tree on Kahoolawe.
The Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award is presented annually to a landscaper, plant provider (retail and wholesale nurseries and garden shops), or commercial/agricultural property owner/manager to recognize their efforts to keep invasive species out of Maui County.
Help Select the Recipient of the 2023 Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award!
Nominations are now being accepted &
are due by August , 2023.
For the nomination form visit www.mauiinvasive.org/MIKA.
This is a joint effort between MALP, Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC) and the County of Maui.
Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award
- 2021: Duane Sparkman, Westin Maui Resort & Spa
- 2020: Mark Blietz, Northshore Tropicals
- 2019: Mikala Minn, Māhele Farms in Hāna
- 2018: Anna Palomino, Hoʻolawa Farms & Horticulturalist with Plant Extinction Prevention Program
- 2017: Sara Tekula and Joseph Imhoff, Plant a Wish
- 2016: Tamara Sherrill, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens
- 2015: Angela Kepler, Author of The World of Bananas in Hawaiʻi: Then and Now
- 2014: Masako Cordray, Flower grower, vidoeographer
- 2013: Christina Chang, Lokelani ʻOhana
- 2012: Doug MacCleur, MacCleurʻs Tree Farm, Hailiimaile Pineapple Company
- 2011:Elaine Malina and Sarge McBride, Maui Green and Beautiful, Landscapers
- 2010: Mach Fukada, Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture
- 2009: Ann Emmsley, Agriculture Professor, UH Maui College
- 2008: Jonathan Keyser and Ethan Romanchak, Maui Native Nursery owners
- 2007: David and Martha Vockrodt Moran and the Friends of D.T. Fleming Arboretum
- 2006: William Jacintho, Jr., Rancher, Beef and Blooms Nursery
- 2005: Nancy Snow, Nursery Manager of Kula Hardware and Nursery
- 2004: Arlene Taus, Landscaper
- 2003: The Maui Tropical Plantation