Friday, February 2, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 2, 2001

Volunteers plant pride for Wai'anae

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

WAIANAE — About 250 residents, sailors and other volunteers will celebrate the completion of the Waianae green gateway project during a dedication ceremony at noon today at Lualualei Beach Park.

Nani O Waianae members get helping hands from Schofield soldiers in planting palms at Lualualei Beach Park in a joint community-military project. A blessing ceremony is today.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

After a final push over the past month to meet grant deadlines, hundreds of plumeria and coconut trees, ti plants and native white hibiscus now line both sides of Farrington Highway, creating a landscaped entry into Wai
anae town.

The project has been a celebration of good will among community members, the military and the city, and the result is generating pride in Waianae.

"When you drove into Waianae before it really looked bad," said Nani O Waianae member Rocky Rogers, coordinator for the project. "There were overgrown bushes and garbage on the sewer plant side and the other side was used by druggies hiding in bushes," he said. "The impression of our community was Hey, these folks really don’t care.’"

Now that the green gateway is completed, everyone can take pride in the effort, he said.

Planning for the project began two years ago. Phase 1, completed in July 1999, covered the mauka side of Farrington Highway from Mailiili Stream to Leihoku Street. Phase 2 covered the makai side of the highway in the same area.

Today, the last workday on the project, about 35 Waianae High School students and a group of sailors will plant the final trees before the ceremony and a hoolaulea at the beach park across from the city sewage treatment plant on Farrington Highway.

Rogers said the final product was possible only because everyone pooled their resources.

He attributes the success of the project to Mayor Jeremy Harris, Cynthia Rezentes and Navy volunteers.

"The mayor took a chance to support the project. Without the irrigation system put in by the city, it never would have happened," Rogers said. "You can’t grow anything without water."

Rezentes, chairwoman of the Waianae Neighborhood Board, helped secure a $10,000 grant from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Kaulunani Urban Forestry program to purchase plants and equipment. The Navy provided the bulk of the volunteers needed to shape and remove kiawe bushes, install the irrigation system and dig holes for the plants. Now the Navy will help maintain the greenway by adopting Lualualei Beach Park.

"These three groups created a critical mass that, once we started, there was enough people and enough motion to keep it going," Rogers said.

Harris, who will attend the ceremony, said the facelift is helping to improve the image of Waianae.

"Nani O Waianae is making a positive impact on the community through its partnership with the city and the military," Harris said. "They have planted thousands of trees and directed environmental and beautification efforts that are really making a difference on the Leeward Coast."

Rogers said even some homeless people living in the area helped clean up and rake.

"They will likely have to move, but in the meantime they take pride in how it looks and that they contributed," he said.

Rogers would like to have a sign installed to commemorate the community effort. But while the sign will be an ending, it also will be a beginning: Rogers plans to start looking for other areas to improve.

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