Landscaping of Roundabout—it takes a community

Since the completion of the Pahoa Roundabout, it has gone through several iterations, the most recent being a seedy weed garden. Many people in the Puna community have expressed disgust and disapproval of the impression that it made as the entrance to Pahoa and the Puna makai area. So, in typical Puna fashion, the community has stepped up to the plate to address the problem. Here’s how:

Malama O Puna (MOP), an environmental nonprofit, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Mainstreet Pahoa Assn. (MSPA) to partner on a re-design and landscaping of the roundabout in two phases. The first phase would be just to address the medians (weeding, landscaping and maintenance) and would be spearheaded by MOP. For Phase two, MSPA would hold town meetings to solicit ideas and designs for the central hill, and oversee installation of the final selection. MOP, after several meetings with Donald Smith, then filed a proposal to the State Department of Transportation, which was approved. It also requested funding assistance from Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4) and Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder (District 5) for Council Contingency Funding; both agreed, and the resulting Resolution was passed unanimously by the County Council. MOP then added the project to its liability insurance policy.

The obvious first step for the medians was weed removal. MSPA put MOP in touch with Youth Challenge, a National Guard program for at-risk youth ages 16-18. The program has 8 core components: academic excellence, life-coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, community service, leadership/followership and physical fitness. Program leaders agreed to arrange for their team to do the initial weeding, with quarterly follow-ups.

MOP then reached out to our Puna community policing officer, Eddie Cardines, to provide safety guidelines for the youth while they worked in the roundabout. He also brought orange traffic cones to alert drivers to the youths’ presence. Fifteen young men and their two leaders, Davis Enriques and Kathy Herring, turned out on Saturday morning, March 23, ready to work. MOP provided safety vests for them, which were partly donated by Hubs Hawaii, Inc. Officer Cardines provided Gatorade and energy bars out of his own pocket. The youth were scheduled to work for four hours, but completed the job in two. The medians are now weed-free and ready for planting.

MOP is now seeking donations of plants which can thrive in full sun. It is also seeking volunteers who would like to plant them. This is a community project, by and for the community, and everyone who contributes in whatever way will be recognized. To either donate or volunteer or both please contact René at malamaopuna@yahoo.com. We can create more beauty in our beautiful Puna. Mahalo plenty.

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