Kokee workday is Saturday

The next in a monthly series of Koke‘e State Park volunteer forest workdays is Saturday, Hui o Laka and state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks officials said in a press release.

All are invited to help weed and groom The Nature Trail, an 880-foot stroll that winds through the native forest between The Lodge at Koke‘e and Koke‘e Natural History Museum, and back down near the historic, stone Koke‘e pavilion.

Lunch will be provided to all participants who call Koke‘e Museum at 335-9975 to register for the workday.

“There’s something for everyone to do,” said Hui o Laka Executive Director Marsha Erickson, “from chain-sawers to weed-whackers to those who want to do gentle gardening and hand weeding in the lush fern beds along the trail.”

Erickson regularly brings her own grandchildren to forest workdays, and says it’s a great way to spend a day in Kaua‘i’s favorite mountain park with family.

Though Hui o Laka has been maintaining and developing Koke‘e State Park’s only self-guiding, interpretive walk for almost four decades, it wasn’t until late 2003 that the group began to imagine they could remove “every weed” from the much-used trail right at the edge of Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow, she explained.

“Every weed” included a well-established stand of Florida prickly blackberry over a large portion of the steep slope on the meadow side of the trail.

Armed with a small grant to Hui o Laka’s Koke‘e Resources Conservation Program from Hawaii Tourism Authority for volunteer support and supervision, a “war on weeds” at The Nature Trail began, Erickson explained.

In early March of 2004, eight volunteers armed with weed whackers attacked a veritable wall of blackberry bushes in “Round One” of the ambitious project .

According to Erickson, it was the “assault stage” on this daunting weed.

Since 2004, work at The Nature Trail has taken on a hand-gardening and landscaping imperative. While almost all major weeds have been removed, there are still some honeysuckle vines, as well as vassey grass and other ground weeds that needed to be removed by hand, she said.

In addition, volunteers will learn Hui o Laka’s low-tech, “chicken-barrier” strategy around precious fern beds and new plants.

One major issue that will also be addressed at the Saturday workday will be erosion control. “It’s a steep site,” Erickson said, “and we need to use all downed logs, branches and brush to slow the flow of water and create natural planting terraces on the slope.”

Using aggressive, non-native trees that need to be removed anyway, volunteers will lay new log steps, as well as brace some trail edges.

Weed-whackers are needed to help refine the edge of the forest and the meadow. “It’s important that we define a natural-looking, maintainable transition between the forest and the public landscaped lawn of Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow,” according to Erickson, “because kikuyu grass, once loose in the forest, can climb all over low-hanging trees and native shrubs.”

A combination of out-planting, nursery-grown plants and seed-dispersal is helping to bring the common native shrubs and ground-covers back to shade the newly-exposed hillside on The Nature Trail.

“Folks in our community, however, are the source of the many hours of devoted gardening that will prove we can perpetuate the beauty and diversity of Kaua‘i’s upland forests,” Erickson said.

Visitors are also welcome to join the workday project.

The 2004-05 project to remove non-native species from this self-guiding walk and plant appropriate native plants was funded by Hawaii Tourism Authority through a grant to Hui o Laka-KRCP.

Hui o Laka officially adopted The Nature Trail in November 2005, and will continue to engage the community in its ongoing maintenance and development, she said.

Throughout the process, Hui o Laka has worked directly with Kaua‘i DLNR Division of State Parks Superintendent Wayne Souza to design and implement the work.

From a community group’s willingness and vision to HTA’s timely support, to the trail adoption that ensures on-going maintenance, it’s a brilliant arrangement, expanding the DLNR Division of State Parks operational reach through visitor-industry support and community volunteer involvement, she said.

Volunteers will continue to be central to the trail-improvement projects. Call Michelle at 335-9975 to get involved in this “people-for -the-parks” improvement adventure, Erickson concluded.

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