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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 3, 2000 - Solomon Star/PINA Nius Online)---Once, Honiara was a beautiful, attractive and charming national capital. What made it beautiful? The trees.

Back in those days there was shade from the Town Council headquarters down to the High Court building, said Mrs. Keithie Saunders, who first came to the Solomon Islands as a little girl in 1954. There were beautiful flame trees whose fallen flowers looked like a red carpet, she said.

But over the years the trees were chopped down to make way for "development." Others died. There were no replacements and the town became dusty and hot. Visitors made negative comments.

Mrs. Saunders said: "Because I love the Solomon Islands I promised myself to replace the trees and restore the beauty."

The town council and the forestry department were approached and endorsed her plan for a tree planting project. Mrs. Saunders was appointed to chair the project.

To get the project under way she approached high commissions in Honiara for help. New Zealand agreed to provide money to engage a horticulturist and landscape architect to look after the planning.

The British and the Shell Company each gave $3,000 towards buying potting bags and the initial collection of 2,500 seedlings, which were raised at the Botanical Gardens nursery.

Pacific Air Express flew in the potting bags from Australia free.

To date, 5,000 seedlings have been cultivated at the nursery, looked after by three workers funded by the Honiara Town Council.

Gold Ridge Mining Company has also helped, importing seeds and raising Royal Palms from Australia.

Mrs. Saunders said 6,500 trees are needed for the project, which will cover about 50 kilometers (30 miles) of road, from Henderson International Airport to White River. This will be called the Avenue of Honor.

Mrs. Saunders has urged the people of Honiara to help look after the trees.

"People should think of it as their own garden," she said. "Let's help and show the world that we are not a dirty and filthy town, but a beautiful town like we used to be."

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