Feeling good about cleaning

KOLOA — Christina Gabriel, manager of the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, discovered Saturday during the tree tunnel cleanup that steers like umbrella trees.

“They really like them,” Gabriel said, hauling out uprooted saplings from between the eucalyptus trees. “When the trees were uprooted, the steers started tugging on them through the fence. It’s kind of sad to have to move them onto the road.”

Maluhia Road was closed from 7 a.m. until the afternoon so volunteers could clean the tree tunnel, a project that has become synonymous with the arrival of the week-long Koloa Plantation Days celebration.

“I was privileged to have been here for the very first time they cleaned this,” said Jackie Lott, of Kalaheo and California. “There were just two chain saws and nine of us, including Aunty Stella Burgess. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and I’m not breaking tradition. This is about the people who make Kauai such a special place, and I like to think of this as a tree tunnel reunion.”

Haku Kaiminaauao of Anahola had his son Kala, 4, in tow during the cleanup, which moved along swiftly.

“We come to help because Uncle Frank (Santos) owns No Ka Oi Plants and Landscaping,” Haku said. “We’ve been coming to help ever since No Ka Oi became involved.”

Frank said No Ka Oi is in its fourth year of volunteering. This year, the landscaping company provided at least 50 volunteers, a back hoe, dump truck and weed-whacking equipment.

“People were here early,” Santos said. “Everyone met at the pavilion at the Anne Knudsen Park at 6 a.m. for coffee and to plan for the road closure which started at 7 a.m. when everyone took off.”

In addition to providing a once-a-year manicure for the popular spot, the event also brings people together, Abby Santos said.

“This is a place where people can have fun,” she said. “We’ve got volunteers from the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, the Sheraton Kauai Resort, the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, the Knudsen Trust and Paradise Bloom all working with the No Kai Oi volunteers. The county also brought out some of their heavy equipment and about 20 people to tackle the albesia and other invasive trees on the lower portion of Maluhia Road. This is a real party. You feel good even afterwards as you drive by and see the clean road and shoulders.”

The Koloa Plantation Days celebration opens Friday with the 15th annual Plantation Days Rodeo preliminary roping at the CJM Country Stables in Poipu from 8:30 a.m. Admission is free.

As the sun begins its descent, the Sunset Hoolaulea and festival takes life at a new venue, the Poipu Beach Athletic Club, starting at 5 p.m., featuring the musical talent of AnyKine, Cruz Control and The Greenstone Project with a selection of Kauai food trucks and summer barbecue items by the Poipu Beach Athletic Club’s grill, Hapas.

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