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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 28, 2002

Stanford students pitch in at Kawai Nui

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAILUA — By noon on Tuesday, 14 Stanford University students had cleared a small island in Kawai Nui Marsh, cutting and pulling three pickup truck loads of pluchea or Indian sour bush, transporting the material across the water in a boat to the dike and hauling it up a 40-foot incline.

Ric Guinther of 'Ahahui Malama i ka Lokahi, the group organizing the marsh volunteer work, helped haul away some cleared sour bush Tuesday.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

For their labor they received a bento lunch and a chance to talk with members of 'Ahahui Malama i ka Lokahi, which focuses on the preservation of Hawai'i's ecosystems and the Makawai Stream restoration project in Waiahole Valley.

The students considered it a good trade.

They said they were unaware of Native Hawaiian issues and were glad to discuss them with people living here.

At Stanford the students are closed off from reality, said Terry Lin, a senior from New Jersey. Coming to Hawai'i and learning about the issues here has made a lasting impression on her, Lin said.

"It will make us reflect for a long time, not just for now," she said.

The wetland restoration project is part of an alternative spring break experience for these students.

"A lot of students feel they want to do something during spring that has impact both on themselves and the people they're working with," said Amanda Rang, a junior student leader in Stanford's alternative spring break program. "We try to do service in order to receive learning opportunities in return."

By day's end yesterday, halfway through their 10-day stay, they had already worked a beach cleanup at Makua, a stream cleaning at He'eia, a lo'i restoration in Waiahole, a house construction for Habitat for Humanity in Makiki, another Kawai Nui Marsh cleanup and visited the state Legislature and Waipahu Plantation Village.

At midday Tuesday, a lone milo tree stood in the middle of the quarter-acre islet that had been covered with alien brush. Clearing the small island on the marsh side of the dike near Kaha Park is intended to make it more attractive to wetland birds, including native coots, ducks, stilts and moorhens.

As part of the project, the islet will be lowered and a pond will be built in the center, said Ric Guinther, with 'Ahahui. The area will be landscaped with native aquatic plants and a ramp will be built to make it easier for birds to access the land from the water. The wetland restoration project is paid for in part by a $75,000 grant from the Kailua Bay Advisory Council.

Three islets were built in 1997 by the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate the construction of a flood control project that took away wetland habitat, Guinther said. But the birds never used the islets.

In conjunction with the clearing project, 'Ahahui is studying whether the project increases the number of birds in the area.

'Ahahui organizes the projects, but all of the work is being done by volunteers, Guinther said. Without the volunteer help the restoration and the studies wouldn't get done. So the Stanford students are appreciated, and in return they learn an appreciation for what is being done in Hawai'i, Guinther said.

"Unless you get out and sweat to improve the land you'll never have a lot of respect for it," he said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.