Aulani Resort Arborist Nimz Earns Aboriculture Recognition

Steve Nimz inside a kauri pine tree, which was removed from Foster Botanical Garden. Photo from Steve Nimz.

Steve Nimz inside a kauri pine tree, which was removed from Foster Botanical Garden. Photo from Steve Nimz.

The lush canopy of monkeypod and Chinese banyan trees at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa have an unusual distinction: They are among the largest full-canopy trees ever relocated in Hawaii.

“Almost the way the tree looked in the ground, that’s the way we lifted them up, dug the roots out … and moved them,” explained Steve Nimz, chief consulting arborist and owner of Steve Nimz and Associates. “Normally, the way we move trees is to severely cut them back to big stubs … and they generate growth after a few years.

“These trees look like literally Aulani was built around the trees, not that the trees were brought there.”

Nimz, who has spent more than 45 years working as an arborist in Hawaii and the South Pacific, has been working behind the scenes to examine, treat and save tens of thousands of trees around the state.

For example, he’s also the arborist helping the Department of Transportation evaluate hundreds of trees impacted by the rail project.

Little wonder that he was recently named a True Professional of Arboriculture by the International Society of Arboriculture.

“For me, getting that honor and being recognized nationally was a tremendous shock. I didn’t even think anybody (on the Mainland) knew about me here on this island,” Nimz said.

Michigan native Nimz moved to Hawaii in 1967 to get a degree in tropical agriculture at University of Hawaii.

He said it was the “incredible” people he met through UH that convinced him to stay.

Nimz’s approach to trees is necessarily pragmatic.

“I’m not a tree-hugger. I have to look at trees as either assets or liabilities,” he said. “I look at things as straightforwardly as I can so we can save as many (trees) as we can keep structurally sound, that are going to be assets for the future.”

In order to do this, he spends time attending national meetings and trying to expand his knowledge.

The more he knows, Nimz reasons, the more likely he’ll be able to figure out if a tree can be preserved or moved safely.

“Whatever I find out (at mainland conferences), the first thing I do at our local meetings is share what I learned,” Nimz said. “There’s no secrets out there; the more information I can give to everybody, the better it is.”

But when Nimz goes home to Waimanalo, he likes to unwind.

“The last thing I want to do when I come home is work on trees, so my yard is kind of a jungle,” he joked.