Islanders making a difference in the 'aina
|Make A Difference Day
Sponsored by USA Weekend and the Points of Light Foundation and supported by Paul Newman and Newman's Own
This year is no different as the annual day devoted to community service dawns on Saturday.
Love for the 'aina comes through in many ways, from beach cleanups to neighborhood school projects, but some groups are working to restore Hawai'i to its natural state. Listed in the database of the Make a Difference Day Web site (makeadiffer enceday.com) are three devoted to just that.
Sponsored by USA Weekend and the Points of Light Foundation, projected registered with Make a Difference Day are eligible to win grants from Paul Newman and Newman's Own.
It's the first time Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden put out a call to Make a Difference Day volunteers to help rake and pull the weed elodea from the Kane'ohe site's flood-control lake.
Ho'omaluhia's Olive Vanselow suspects the weed was dumped by someone cleaning out their aquarium. Since then, the plant has invaded the watershed, and the cleanup project has been continuing for the past two years.
It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
"The lake is 10 to 12 feet deep in certain spots, and the weed is 10 to 12 feet deep in the lake," she said. "(We want to) create some open water for waterbird and fishing programs."
It might be a wet and muddy way to spend a Saturday, but there are pluses, Vanselow adds: exquisite scenery and some activities planned for afterward.
On the other side of Kane'ohe, California grass and mangrove, two alien species, have been causing their own problems in He'eia Stream, said Joe Knothe, an education coordinator for Friends of He'eia.
Mangrove is all along the walls of the fish pond, he said, blocking light to the algae. That, in turn, takes away nutrients from plant life in the stream and fishpond.
Volunteers will be removing California grass, that thick stuff with the clumpy root ball growing about chest-high around the stream.
In place of the mangroves, they'll be planting native trees, the hau and milo, later on as part of a yearlong watershed recovery effort, said Carole McLean, the group's executive director.
"Our goal is to get the natives coming back," McLean said. "They're salt- and drought-tolerant."
Hau and milo will help hold the soil in place and keep the ground from eroding, but doesn't have the hanging seedlings of the mangrove. In Florida, people plant mangrove, a hardwood tree, but the seeds cause problems here in Hawai'i.
"The problem is, (here), it's so prolific, it's going to actually close off the flow of the stream," she said. "Where it's native, a crab comes out and eats the seeds. Here, it grows out of control."
Earlier, some mangrove was chopped down. Part of Saturday's job is to chip up those trunks.
Another project on the Big Island will be the planting of more than 300 endemic and endangered Hawaiian plants at Laupahoehoe School (a K-12 campus) and the school's Hawaiian ethno-botanical garden.
"We're trying to regrow a native Hawaiian landscape," said Steve Nemeth, agriculture and science teacher at the school.