Mango Grove Protected Forever!
Six years in the works, the efforts of Malama O Puna to protect the grove of 354 old Mango grove along Old Government Roadgrowth mangos along the Old Government Road have finally born fruit (pun intended). Originally planted over 100 years ago to provide shade and sustenance to the traveler, the grove lines both sides of the road for 1 3/4 miles on a stretch of the road that runs between Cape Kumukahi and the bottom of Hawaiian Beaches. It is listed in The County General Plan as a place of scenic beauty. But it is much more than that…it is magical. Coming out of the relentless sun and heat of the Kapoho lava flow, one is suddenly enveloped by the coolness of the green tunnel formed by the overarching mango branches. The trees are massive – the largest is over 18 feet in girth. Lianas, ferns and epiphytes festoon the trees. Hala and palms join in the blend. Dappled sunlight through the canopy creates dancing patterns of shadow on the surface of the road. Birdsong and fragrance fill the air. Suddenly you feel yourself transported back to Old Hawai’i.
The Wa‘a wa‘a-Koa‘e Road Committee is working to put the road, trees and historic rock walls into the protected status provided by a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Getting the grove declared “exceptional” and protected by ordinance is a major first step which lays the foundation and credibility for historic status. As part of the process, MOP had to document each tree: photographing each one with its identifying number, measuring its girth and distance from the road median. Then the County had to be gently nudged to name an Arborist Advisory Committee for the current administration, so that the nomination of the trees could be approved and passed along to the County Council as a bill to amend the ordinance to include the grove. We presented it to the Committee and attended its meetings so that we could answer their questions. The Committee and its Chair, landscape architect Leonard Bisel, were exceptionally supportive. We then took it to Mayor Harry Kim, who was delighted to sign the Landowner’s Approval Form. We walked the bill through the County Council’s three hearings, testifying and answering their questions. The councilpersons were pleased to have such a “warm and fuzzy” piece of legislation like this to support, and did so unanimously. Julie Jacobson, Gary Safarik, “Bobby-Jean Leithead-Todd and Curtis Tyler rhapsodized over the beauties of the area and the need to preserve it so that future generations could share the pleasure with us. And now they will. Take a drive down there and enjoy – no rush: it will be there for a long, long time.
Uluwehi Native Tree Arboretum
We wrote three grant proposals in hopes of getting funding for the first phase of this project, including a landscape design and Albizia eradication. By October we learned that we would not get any financial help, so we started in anyway. Our first workday removed alien weed trees from “segment A”, and we planted 3 kopiko, 2 maile, 2 alahe‘e, 2 wiliwili, 1 ohe‘ohe, 1 kukui. 2 ko‘oko‘olau, 3 Hibiscus muliwai, and assorted green ti. If you want to help with planting, weed eradication or in any other way, call the office and volunteer.
The Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) and Operation Miconia needed a nonprofit to umbrella them so that they could get $50,000 in federal help for invasive species education and eradication. They asked us, and we were glad to enable them. We are partnering with the Agriculture Dept. and UH-Hilo on this.
Our intrepid Leilani Miconia Swat Team eradicated 11,256 plants in that subdivision between February and November. The first 2003 service day is scheduled for Jan. 11th starting at 9 a.m. Thereafter, it will be held on the first Saturday of every month. It’s hard work, but our upbeat group makes it fun. Plan to join us.
We also assisted Nanawale Estates in their war on miconia, albizia and cecropia and cleared 6 full blocks in the heart of the subdivision.
Pahoa Police Sub-Station
This year we replanted the ground covers in a red (begonias), white (begonias and portulaca) and blue (Blue Daze and ajuga) color scheme. We have kept it weeded and fertilized; the Bottle Palms are growing and the asparagus ferns are draping gracefully over the rock wall.
Pahoa Aquatic Center
It took a bit of repeated reminding, but eventually the Parks Department provided expandable tree collars as protection against weedeater damage. We installed them. However, two of our native white hibiscus (kokio keokeo) succumbed to an overzealous groundskeeper. We took cuttings from the remaining one and are growing them out at our nursery for eventual replacement.
Pahoa High & Intermediate School
We learned that there was no budget for fertilizer for the campus plants, so we asked for donations from Pahoa Feed & Fertilizer and Pahoa Hardware. Both gave so generously that there was enough to share with Pahoa Elementary. The magnolias we planted several years ago have been thanking us by putting out many huge, perfumed blooms. We also donated 21 plants from our nursery to Pahoa Elementary.
Plants for Kea‘au High Campus
Several years ago, when the school was being built, the head of maintenance asked us to start some shrubs for the campus. The plants were finally ready, and so was Mr. Kelly, so we are now ready to deliver the first batch,
Database of our Plantings
This was the idea of Mark Franklin, and the Board liked it so much that we are putting it together, including photos. We are going all the way back to when we were Puna Outdoor Circle – after all, under whatever name, these were still our projects. We blew ourselves away when we started making the list and realized how much planting we have done over the years!
Board member Mark Franklin has been planting native coastal species along the road between Four Corners and Ahalanui Park, on the makai side. Eventually they will provide some shade and beauty.
Get The Drift & Bag It
This was scheduled for the same day as the Primary Election, but we got volunteers from Kea‘au High and Hawai’i Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Governor’s Kilohano Awards
We were honored for our two “Heavy Metal” cleanups performed last year, which totaled over 9 tons! Mayor Harry Kim gave President René Siracusa a certificate, a lei and a hug. Our V-P, MayApple McCullough, whose birthday fell on the same day as the awards banquet, was gifted a decorated ipu.
Make A Difference Day Awards
We also were honored in Parade Magazine for the same “Heavy Metal” projects: Of 4 honorees in the state, we were number 1!
Malama Ka Aina Day
We coordinated 9 sites for the Puna District. 45 volunteers turned out to rid our roadsides of 130 bags and 4 truckloads of rubbish. Mahalo to all of them.
Nanawale newsletter listed the types of items that people think cannot be taken to the Transfer Station but really can – we blew it up into flyers and posted them around to inform the public. We have also created a large sign which lists these items (stoves, sofas, etc.) in pictorial form, which we will present to Environmental Management Director Barbara Bell at a meeting in January. Our Visions of Puna video program is working on some 60 second spots to get the message out.
“Give a Holiday Gift to the Aina”
Kalani Honua suggested co-sponsoring a coastal litter cleanup on December 14th. Kalani provided breakfast for the volunteers, and we did the flyers, press release, and supplied the trash bags. More than 30 residents and visitors turned out to clean Red Road and Pohoiki Road – the amount of trash was appalling.
New Materials in MOP Library: Although money has been tight this year, we still managed to augment our library with books on landscaping and children’s books. Remember, one of the benefits of MOP membership is that you can borrow books (one at a time for up to one month).
Visions of Puna
We are now partnering with HCEOC (Hawaii Island Economic Opportunity Council under George Yokoyama) and Paul Ogasuwara: Paul is providing the space for our video studio, and HCEOC is covering the utilities and insurance. Our Education Chair, Del Pranke has added this own equipment to ours, and he and Keola Downing have created a state-of-the-art professional studio. The monthly show “Report to Puna”, in which Gary Safarik interviews various people on local issues, is one of our productions. We are working on educational public service announcements, documentaries and oral histories of our kupuna.
“A Homeowner’s Guide to Coqui Control”
Lots of misinformation has been disseminated about these Puerto Rican frogs, so we decided to counter it with facts. It is now available at our office and also at Pahoa Feed & Fertilizer. We are trying to get funding to put out the guide for larger distribution. Any ideas?
“The Right Tree in The Right Place”
This great little book, printed on recycled paper, was put out by DLNR’s Kaulunani Urban Forestry Program and co-sponsored by HECO. Mike Kraus of Treeworks passed 8 cases of them on to us and we distributed them all within one week. Pahoa Library sent out copies to every library in the State system, and gave away many more. We are trying to get the updated editions to distribute again.
Nat’l. Arbor Day Poster Contest/Syllabus Materials
These were passed on to us by Mike Kraus of Treeworks. We passed these educational materials along to Pahoa Elementary, Hawai ‘i Academy of Arts & Sciences, Kea‘au Elementary, Waters of Life Charter School and Christian Liberty Charter School.
BOOTHS AT SPECIAL EVENTS
Hawai ‘i County Fair
We helped Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) and Operation Miconia staff an information booth.
Native Plant Workshop
We had a table at this workshop where we had information and examples of live potted plants – the ‘Ohe makai was in bloom, and made a big hit.
Malama i ke Kai
Over 100 Puna talents (including MOP members Graham Ellis, Angie Baker and Greg & Joy McCluer) took part in this double header show at the Pahoa Gym, sponsored by Hawaii Community Foundation. The theme of the show was appreciating our surrounding ocean and becoming aware of the necessity of taking care of it. We were invited to have an educational exhibit on ocean issues, and we generated a lot of interest.
ADVOCACY & WATCH-DOGGING
Several years ago we conducted a survey of our membership to determine which of our activities (hands-on projects, environmental education or advocacy) should have our highest priority. Over 80% of you voted for this category. Thy will be done:
The Final EIS has not yet come out and, we suspect, it will not until ex-senator David Matsuura has the funding secured. We are keeping watch and will be ready.
Arborist Advisory Committee
This committee runs with the term of the mayor, and we had to keep being the squeaky wheel until it was finally formed. We have attended every meeting since, and done voluntary research for it. We are working on signage for exceptional trees and seeking new trees to nominate for protection.
Sonar Tests vs. Whales
We have repeatedly submitted testimony in opposition to the underwater sonar tests, citing beached whales in the Bahamas and the Mediterranean, and other related concerns. The Navy is ignoring all evidence, including their own studies, and we believe that they are willing to sacrifice these gentle giants on the spurious excuse of national defense (against Al-Quaida subs).
Insinger Sea Wall
We reported this illegal structure (and other violations) in Kapoho Beach Lots during the previous administration, but they had a strong conflict of interest ($1,500 campaign contribution to Yamashiro). The current Planning Director, Chris Yuen, picked up the gauntlet and took the issue to the Planning Commission. The PC agreed that violations had taken place, but allowed the new owner (the perpetrator’s relative) to keep the wall. We had testified that it should be razed and a new shoreline survey done.
Aviation Noise & Nuisance
A federal appeals court ruling about jurisdiction in certain aviation issues gave us hope for some relief. We held some public brainstorming meetings to get ideas about how we could use the court decision, but our legal consultant didn’t see anything we could really use. We are hopeful that John Carse’ lawsuit to force implementation of the National Parks Overflight Act will either reduce chopper traffic or at least set some legal precedent that we can use.
The Bottle Bill
Having spent years and years picking up discarded beverage containers from our roads, coasts and parks, we testified in support. We believe that this, or any other plan to relieve the problem, should at the very least be given a chance. If there are problems that arise with it, it can always be improved upon and fine-tuned.
This bill addressed a problem with development issues which we have noted over the years and raised with the Sierra Club leadership, who brought it to Sen. Russell Kokubun’s attention: when the approving agency, the accepting authority and the applicant are all the same party, there is a conflict of interest. This bill proposed to give the final decision-making power to the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) whenever this happens. We testified in support but it did not pass the State Legislature. We’ll try again next session.
Green Space Program
This is a plan we designed to enable the County to acquire land cheaply through the tax forfeiture process. Only lands which meet certain priorities are eligible, such as those adjacent to County facilities, wildlife corridors, native habitat, etc. The idea is that if we wait to acquire land for these and future needs, it will all be gone or too expensive. The plan has languished on the desk of the County’s Legislative Auditor for over two years. Councilman Bob Jacobson (Upper Puna-Ka‘u) has vowed to make its passage a priority.
We have testified in opposition to the continued development on the summit, based on environmental, cultural and legal concerns. We also offered our support and assistance to OHA, which is opposing the sub-millimeter array on Hawaiian cultural grounds.
A federal appeals court gave the EPA the final go-ahead to issue more stringent air quality standards, which will require state and local authorities to impose tougher controls on smog-causing chemicals and microscopic soot, and we wrote and asked them to review PGV’s permit to make sure that it is upgraded to conform to these new standards. We also learned that Civil Defense and the emergency responders are not really prepared in the event of a worst case scenario, and our letter alerting the public and lawmakers to the problem was published in the Hawai ‘i Island Journal (after the Trib-Herald refused to print it). Subse-quently, we testified at the Planning Commission, addressing one of those concerns, and as a result, and to our surprise, they awarded $5,000 from the Geothermal Asset Fund to Puna Malama Pono, so that the H2S monitoring program could continue. It is only through this program that Civil Defense will know when an accident or upset condition occurs, so that they can come to the aid of the community.
Genetically Modified Organisms
We have submitted several comment letters at various times and to various agencies, (1) supporting labeling of foods containing GMOs, and (2) opposing the experimental growing of GMOs in open air test plots in Hawai ‘i. We cited previously known “escapes” and stated our beliefs that the risks are not worth the supposed potential benefits.
Importation of Medium- and High-Risk Microorganisms
We opposed the Agriculture Dept.’s request to import these for experimental purposes on the same basis as the above.
We testified in support of the long-overdue designation of critical habitat for 47 Big Island endangered plant species. We also submitted testimony supporting protections for the Green Sphinx Moth and the Molokai Safe Harbor Agreement for Nene.
Native Forest Tax Rates
As the County Council proposed to increase property taxes across the board, we pointed out that (1) native forest and agricultural should not be lumped together, because they had been previously separated by an amendment to Chapter 19 of the County Code, and (2) that the Code for Native Forest to have the lowest rate was ignored by the proposed new rates, which were therefore illegal.
ARC of Hilo vs. 78 Pink Tecomas at County Building
ARC has the maintenance contract for the County property. They felt that raking the blossoms added too much work and requested permission to cut down the trees. We complained, and contacted the Outdoor Circles to do so as well. The trees were saved.
Herbicide Spraying at Ahalanui Park & County Roads
When we learned that a County maintenance worker had done massive spraying of Roundup at the park, we contacted Pam Mizuno at Parks & Rec to remind her that County policy was that Ahalanui is a no-spray park (we had learned years ago that rain would leach herbicides into the pond). Pam checked the records, agreed with us, and instructed parks maintenance division accordingly. We also complained to County Roads Division about spraying along our roadsides. Certain areas are now being mowed instead, as a result of our efforts.
County General Plan
The main planning document of the County is due for revision every ten years, and calls for public hearings. We reviewed the plan, and there were things we liked and things we didn’t. We were very vocal about the latter: supporting protection of coastal lands and native forest, help for organic farmers from pesticide overspray, undergrounding of utilities, protection of historic sites and all the other good stuff. Visit the office to read our entire testimony -–we’re sure you’ll agree.
Rules Governing Non-profits
René wrote a letter which was printed in the Tribune-Herald under the heading “Nonprofit 101”, in which she discussed some of the violations she has observed locally. Rep. Helene Hale informed us that she, too, has been thinking about the matter, having seen some unethical or illegal behaviors – especially by non-profits receiving State money. She intends to work on this issue, and will keep us posted.
In August we wrote this State agency, requesting that they schedule meetings on Neighbor Islands when their agenda includes NI issues. It’s hard for the public to always have to travel to Oahu. Rep. Helene Hale followed up with her own letter to the Council in support. There has been no response to either of us thus far & Oahu meetings continue.
Playground on Pahoa Elementary Campus
There is no public playground in all of Puna makai. Councilman Safarik submitted a funding request to the County Council for equipment. We submitted testimony in support. It passed.
Over the years we have been monitoring the changing rules regarding solid waste and how they affect roadside dumping. We are convinced that the more obstacles put in the way of the public, the greater the dumping. Already some local businesses are using the transfer stations or dumping on the back roads instead of hauling to Hilo. If tipping fees are instituted, it will increase their cost of doing business even more, and we will see an increase in dumping. We asked the County to consider, instead, a bonus for using the landfill and to order Public Works to implement the “bounty” on junk cars which they passed several years ago.