NIUMALU — Susan McCluskey, vice president of Ohana Motors, did not realize the extent of clearing work that was spearheaded by the Malama Huleia group.
“This is beautiful,” said McCluskey, who was setting up a birthday party for her grandson Cash, while surveying the area around the Niumalu Pavilion. “I drove by this area two weeks ago and was surprised by how beautiful this area is. I got here 40 years ago and the place has never been cleaned until I saw it two weeks ago.”
Evidence of why family parties were not held at the Niumalu Pavilion lay among the piles of neatly stacked cut invasive mangrove.
“This used to belong to a homeless couple who treated their dog like a baby, keeping it in the stroller,” said Steve Yee, one of the Malama Huleia project leaders, pointing to discarded items. “They had their belongings in the shopping cart, until one day, they just disappeared and left these.”
Sara Bowen, Malama Huleia director, said the clearing of invasive mangrove started two years ago and what people can see today is a result of more than 4,000 people of all ages coming to help during the Malama Huleia work days and special projects.
“The Malama Huleia restoration project, partnering with the County of Kauai and the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, hit milestones with the removal of the last mangrove tree,” Carl Berg said. “We’ve increased re-vegetation of the area with the help of local schools, and the hiring of an executive director, Sara Bowen.”
The public is invited to a community meeting at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Niumalu Pavilion where Malama Huleia will roll out its new strategic action plan, including the clearing of the Alekoko Fish Pond area where invasive mangrove has choked out the Huleia Stream and the rock walls of the ancient fish pond. Dinner will be provided.
“We have ‘before and now’ photos of the impact of the mangrove,” said Yee. “When the Kauai High School Academy of Hospitality and Tourism did the signage project a few years ago, they had a photo showing the fishpond from before any development took place.”
Yee said one of the lowest tides will take place Wednesday morning so the Malama Huleia group is planning a “Menehune Day” and will work on the stream along the access road to the Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor to remove debris.
“Do you feel this?” Bowen said while surveying the cut pieces of red mangrove. “You could never feel this when the mangrove was there. Now, there is both air and water flow.”
Berg said during the clearing many native plants were discovered, and with the help of schools, the plants are being grown and replanted by students and teachers.
The community meeting Tuesday is designed to get community input toward the next steps in the Malama Huleia mission.
“This is one of the most successful projects I’ve worked on,” Berg said. “This project has been so successful that we are now engaging in an action planning process for the remaining watershed.”
Bowen said community support is essential for achieving the Malama Huleia mission.
“Active cultural and educational programs need to be integrated with the effort to eradicate red mangrove and Malama Huleia is interested in hearing from the community about a vision for a cultural and educational component,” she said.
Malama Huleia has contracted the services of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program to facilitate and develop a Strategic Action Plan to guide the organization through the next phase of mangrove eradication along the Huleia River and around the Alekoko Fishpond.
Comments can be emailed to email@example.com by July 1.
The strategic action plan is available online at www.malamahuleia.org.