Planning for Puna’s Future
It seems that this has been the year of the plans, and MOP has been involved in all of them: The Puna Community Development Plan, The Hawai’i 2050 Long Range Sustainability Plan, and the State’s Rural Hawai’i Plan. We have also attended meetings and workshops about transportation issues, community economic development and other topics. How effective any of these plans will be is out of our hands, but we submitted our mana‘o and, if even a few of our suggestions become enshrined in law or policy, we will have made a positive difference.
Since the youth of our community represent the future, we have also assisted and supported youth programs and studies in several ways: we have run the County-funded Puna Jr. Life Saving Program for good swimmers ages 8 to 18, teaching them life saving skills and equipment, teamwork, coastal and marine ecology, disaster preparedness, civic responsibility, healthy lifestyle choices, Hawaiian values and canoe paddling. They will be able to jump in and help people in emergency situations, and some may later decide to take up life guarding or EMT as a profession.
When Pahoa High and Intermediate School appealed for financial help to then-Councilman Safarik for several projects, it was decided to run the monies through us in order to eliminate red tape and speed up the process. The first project was the Auto Repair Shop which had no tools or equipment and an unsafe hydraulic lift. The teacher, John ‘Steve’ Ritchie made his wish list and we went shopping and spent $5,000 at Sears. Lex Brodie’s also donated the lift and its installation. The students will be able to take care of and fix their own cars and find jobs in the auto service industry.
The Culinary Arts class was using the same textbooks for 24 years, and they had gotten them second- hand from Waiakea High School! They were in terrible condition and totally out of date. A $5,000 grant from Safarik funneled through MOP purchased curricular materials and a full range of supplies. With the skill gained in this class, students will be well prepared to work in the food industry after graduation, and of course will be able to feed their own families.
Planning for the future can take many forms and we jump in wherever we see an opening. We ALL want clean air and water, right livelihood, peace on earth and healthy educated people. The big question is: how to get there. The planning process gives us opportunities to work out the road map to tomorrow as a community.
Advocacy & Watch-dogging
OAHU-CENTRIC?: In January ’06 we submitted testimony to the Governor’s Advisory Committee about the lack of Neighbor Island access to State-level boards and commissions, which always meet on Oahu, even for Neighbor Island issues.
COQUÍ: We submitted testimony to the State Legislature on HB 2764 and SB 3076 in favor of adding the coquí to the Dept. of Ag’s official “pest list”. This will cost the State no money at all and will allow eradication wherever the frog is found – no more safe havens!
GEOTHERMAL: We testified on SB 2495 in support of an appropriation from the Geothermal Resource Fund to plug and abandon the “exploratory” well in the Wao Kele O Puna. We have also requested (twice) that the DLNR remove Ka’ohe Homesteads, mauka of Pahoa, from the Geothermal Subzone Designation. We have had no response from Director Peter Young to either letter.
LAVA TREE STATE PARK: We informed the State Parks District Supervisor about the lack of maintenance at the park and the destruction of four tree molds caused by negligence. Since then a new maintenance man has been hired who has lots of energy and loves native plants. We will be working closely with him. There is also a young man, Ian Ray, working for his Eagle Scout Badge, who will be involved in the planting and landscaping under our supervision.
PUBLIC ACCESS & OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: Last year we supported Bill 78 which created this Committee and nominated some Puna sites for future preservation by County acquisition. This year we promoted the ballot initiative, “2% Solution Land Fund”, and later helped to circulate the petition to correct the omissions made on the ballot so that the 2% funding of Bill 78 can proceed.
EXCEPTIONAL TREES: We assisted the Mayor’s Arborist Advisory Committee in marking the placement of the signs on both Government Beach Rd. and Poho‘iki Rd. The signs have been made but not yet installed. We also asked that the one mango not be removed for the Poho‘iki Bypass Road lest it set a bad precedent. The County decided to remove the mango anyway, but the amendment to the Ordinance states very specifically that it does not set a precedent, so this was half a win (or half a loss).
PAHOA TRANSFER STATION: Not only did the transfer station not have a sign, but the name didn’t communicate to new residents that this is where they should leave their garbage. We asked the County Dept. of Environmental Management to post a sign at the entrance and use the words “trash”, “rubbish” or “solid waste”. They not only did that, but the added signs with arrows saying “Appliances”. We noted an improvement in the roadside dumping problem. Until Thanksgiving when the transfer station was closed, and again on Christmas and New Years Days. Now we have to work on keeping it open on those holidays and also longer hours.
BROWNFIELDS: These are similar to Superfund sites in that they are places that are polluted and contaminated due to human activity. “Ice houses” leave behind permanent hazardous residues that can harm subsequent residents unless a costly and extensive cleanup is performed. We contacted the Dept. of Environmental Management to suggest that they liaison with the police to identify these Brownfields locations. We received back a very positive response. There is now a website nationwide where this info is posted: http://www.DEA.gov
WAI‘ELE: This very special coastal property is up for sale. It is already on the purchase list for the Public Access and Open Space Committee, but not on top of the list. It has endangered species and archaeological features. We have sent a letter to the Planning Dept. and the Dept. of Public Works (did you see it in the Puna News?) advising them to red flag it if any permit applications cross their desks. The Wa‘awa‘a/Ko‘a‘e C. A. has also signed onto this letter and other community groups have written their own letters supporting our position.
PAHOA BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT: Have you noticed the large forest green planters along Pahoa Village Road? We were given $450 by Pahoa Weed and Seed to purchase materials for Phase 1 of a project that is part of a community revitalization effort. Some of the planters have been spared vandalism and are looking well; others were not so lucky. We have tried to replace stolen and damaged plants and planters as soon as possible, but so far the vandals have not been identified or arrested. We are ready to begin Phase 2 this year, and are growing and propagating the plants in our nursery. We have also been maintaining the plantings in front of the Pahoa Police Substation, and are looking for a volunteer to weed once a month. Interested?
PAHOA LITTER: For about three months we had someone doing Community Service picking up the litter along Pahoa Village Rd. The town looked so nice until he completed his hours. Now it’s trashed again. We wished that each business would take responsibility for their own frontage, like Luquin’s does, because we don’t always have community service people to assign to this.
MICONIA: Some of our Board members (Ann, Sherry, Zan, Rex and Rhio) and their friends have been eradicating miconia in the Nanawale Forest Reserve. One day they were even joined by members of the Invasive Species Committee.
MANGROVES: This aquatic plant has begun to colonize the Wai ‘Opae tide pools (Marine Life Conservation District) makai of Vacationland. If it gets too well established it can change the water chemistry and the entire ecology of the area, making the tide pools a more friendly habitat for alien species, to the detriment of our local fishery. Our team has been working hard to control this plant without chemicals and we will be seeking a grant to help fund this effort.
CARING FOR OUR LAND: We are very grateful that the Puna News has allowed us our own column every month so that we can keep the public informed about issues and events. Our December 2006 column was our 41st, so we have been doing this for 3 + years. For those of you who do not have access to the Puna News, it is also posted on our website.
INFORMATIONAL PROGRAMS AT PAHOA LIBRARY: We sponsored two programs this year. The first was titled “Saving the Planet One Bite At A Time” with speaker Jim Corcoran discussing the way that vegan diets support environmental protection (we were not advocating veganism – just allowing alternative views a venue). The second program was a report by two graduate students, Jennifer VanderVeur and Cecile Walsh, sharing the results of the research they had done at the Wai ‘Opae MCLD, “Mangroves In Kapoho”.
HELPING NEW LANDOWNERS: Even kama’ainas may not always be able to tell the weeds from the endangered native plants, but help is available. In an effort to educate property owners about the plants on their land, what to save and what to destroy, MOP has a special program. We will do a botanical assessment as we walk the land with you. This service is free, although we do request an honorarium for the volunteer in order to defray expenses. Call 965-2000 to make arrangements.
“SUPER SIMPLE GUIDE TO CREATING HAWAIIAN GARDENS”: Barbara Fahs, who writes The Healthful Herbalist column for the Hawai’i Island Journal, used us as a resource (which we are) in her new book, and acknowledged our contributions on pp. 17 and 21.
EDUCATING COUNTY ROAD CREWS: After being horrified by the destruction of native trees along Pohoiki Road by County road crews, we approached the Dept. of Public Works about the need to educate them, pointing out that the destruction of even one endangered tree could open the County up to at least a $10,000 EPA fine. That got their attention! They have given us permission to develop a field guide (that they will print) and a power point on identifying weed species, native plants and endangered plants; and they will arrange a half day workshop that the crews will have to attend. DPW wants to repeat this program every other year, so that new hires will have the benefit of the info. The County Dept. of Parks & Recreation wants their crews to attend as well. We are working on putting the information together into a “friendly” format.
“MALAMA I KA ‘AINA”: Recycle Hawai’i (Howard Shapiro and Greg Perry) made this video about solid waste and the need to recycle. Our Heavy Metal roadsite dumping project was featured. Also, a 60- second public service announcement written by us about dumping of large appliances was recorded by Howard and aired on local radio.
LEILANI & NANAWALE SPREAD THE WORD: Member Sharon Niceley wrote an article for the Leilani Estates newsletter informing residents about our website and programs (see: Helping New Landowners, above). They also reprinted our “Homeowner’s Guide to Coquí Control”. Nanawale’s newsletter let their members know about our coquí sprayer program by printing a mahalo to us for “allowing the Nanawale Community Association to house two of their 100 gallon sprayers for individuals to borrow”. We return the favor and thank Nanawale for agreeing to house the sprayers, spread the word, and do the paperwork. We are willing to work with other Puna subdivisions on their environmental concerns, if they call us at 965-2000 and just ask.
MONK SEAL PINUP: “Zan” Briggs shot some photos of an endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal enjoying sun on his (her?) tummy at the Wai ‘Opae MLCD, which we submitted to the Puna News. One made the front page, and now more people understand just how very special Puna is.
Under Our Umbrella
FRIENDS OF HAKALAU FOREST NWR: The National Wildlife Refuge is a very special place at 5 –6,000 foot elevation on the slopes of Mauna Kea, and it provides habitat for many of our endangered forest birds. We have assisted in the formation of a “friends” group, acting as temporary fiscal agent, submitting their application to State and Federal agencies for their non-profit status, and helping to process a $5,000 start-up grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. As a result of our efforts they are now a legally constituted public charity and are poised to help the refuge in its mission to promote the recovery of endangered forest birds and their habitat by improving forest health, restoring the native forest, monitoring the health of native plant and animal populations and combating invasive species (especially gorse). To learn more or to become a member, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. By the way, the photo of the nene on our masthead was taken there during the October 7th Open House.
PAHOA SPRINGTIME JAMM: The Pahoa Merchants Assn. has organized four annual street fairs in Pahoa, and are planning the 5th one for the day before Mothers’ Day (Saturday, May 12th). We act as their fiscal agent, even though it has nothing to do with the environment. The event provides local craftspeople with a venue to sell their wares, non-profits can outreach and raise some money, there is music all day long and dancing in the streets. We do this because it’s fun! To volunteer or arrange for a booth space call Denyse Temple at 965-7139.
Other Good Stuff
ULUWEHI NATIVE TREE ARBORETUM: We haven’t really made any physical progress with our nine acre parcel in Nanawale this year. However we are involved in fund raising (only have about $3,400 in the fund) and have established a line of credit to dip into when we’re ready to build our combination office, resource center and environmental library. We also have a pool of volunteers with expertise in various specialties of the building trades. And we have been collecting designs and pricing materials from various building supplies providers.
NEW PAHOA COMMUNITY LIBRARY: It won’t be long before the State Library System honors its unwelcome promise to close the public part of the Pahoa Library and just operate the school library on the PHIS campus. They expect us to travel to Kea ‘au or even farther and have already turned down our request for a bookmobile. The Friends of Pahoa Library have been raising money for a new public library and have gotten a commitment from the County to use a portion of the 56 acres above the Pahoa Pool. Member Ron Terry will do the Environmental Assessment required, and we will help. We have already hiked the parcel and listed the plant species on it. Later, we will be helping with the landscaping. If the State creates too many obstacles, the “friends” may decide to go independent, in which case we will assist in the process.
WAO KELE ‘O PUNA: The Puna rainforest consists of over 28,000 acres. The largest demonstrations ever held in the State of Hawai’i were efforts to protect the forest from geothermal development. After many years of struggle, the forest has been purchased by OHA through the work of the Trust for Public Land and Pele Defense Fund. We have worked with these groups and others to get this protection, and will be joining with them and DLNR to restore the forest. Eradication of alien pest species such as strawberry guava, glory bush and other miconia relatives (melastomes), for the most part, will be our number one priority. Still, the native trees and understory plants are regenerating, such as the lovely dew- kissed and rare orange lehua captured below by Phil Rosenberg.
We end our newsletter with this beautiful image and an inspirational quotation from “The Greener Shore”,a work of historical fiction about the Celts in Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn:
“Trees are a visible representation of the sacred forces of wind and water and sun. Their shapes conform to the wind that swirls around them; their roots drink from the breast of Mother Earth; their arms are lifted in supplication to the Great Fire of Life. Therefore we worship among trees and with trees. Our reverence, like that of the trees themselves, is directed toward the Source of All Being.”
Mahalo to you for being an important part of our successes in preserving the beauty and precious natural heritage of Puna and Hawai’i .