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KBEC Purchases New ‘Home-on-Wheels’

June 24, 2015, 12:54 PM HST
* Updated June 24, 1:03 PM
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The Kohala Center’s Kahalu’u Bay Education Center has a new “home-on-wheels” at Kahalu’u Beach Park, replacing the previous van that was in service since 2011. More than 12,000 patrons each year used the original vehicle as an education center and snorkel rental concession.

According to The Kohala Center, the new 25-foot mobile education unit was funded through the support and fundraising efforts of hundreds of donors, businesses, volunteers, and community partners, and will act as a replacement for the center’s previous vehicle.

Serving the community on a seven-day-a-week schedule, the weather and salty air rusted the original vehicle, leaving it bursting at its seams. The original van is not going to be fully decommissioned. Plans for it include serving as a produce transport and delivery vehicle for the center’s Demonstration Farm in Honoka’a.

Driver side of Kahalu'u Bay Education Center's new mobile unit. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Driver’s side of Kahalu’u Bay Education Center’s new mobile unit. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Now, the new van, which has more than 1,000 cubic feet in space, will provide a place for snorkel gear and merchandise, educational materials, and even a flat-panel monitor that will provide screenings of the center’s bay orientation video.

KBEC program director and organizer of fundraising efforts Cindi Punihaole worked with FoodCart USA to obtain the vehicle. The vehicle was once a food truck in South Dakota. FoodCart USA took the vehicle to Southern California, where it was inspected, repaired, and painted. The interior was gutted and new walls were installed. In addition, a colorful and educational vehicle wrap created by Honoka’a-based artist Jessica Young was installed.

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Once the vehicle arrived on the Big Island, KBEC staff members installed interior storage amenities, a flat-panel monitor, and finishing touches.

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Danny and Anna Akaka blessed and officially placed the vehicle into service at Kahalu’u Beach Park on Monday.

“The bigger vehicle allows us to create lifetime memories for even more visitors and continue our work to revive and revitalize the bay and beach park for generations to come,” said Punihaole. “KBEC now has a bigger and more modern new home, and we are so grateful to our longtime supporters, new friends, and visitors who contributed to this effort and made our beautiful new center a reality.”

Passenger side of Kahalu'u Bay Education Center's new mobile education unit. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Passenger side of Kahalu’u Bay Education Center’s new mobile education unit. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

In January 2014, KBEC began its $60,000 fundraising efforts. Not long after the efforts began, $40,000 in matching funds were pledged by supporters, and within six months, the center had raised an additional $20,000.

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“No contribution was too small. We even had a tip jar at the center for visitors to contribute their loose change and that ended up making a big difference. Truly every little bit helped,” said Punihaole, who also led efforts in fundraising.

Every year, Kahalu’u Bay attracts more than 400,000 visitors with its easy access to spectacular snorkeling. At the bay, KBEC staff and volunteers greet, educate, rent snorkel gear, sell merchandise to thousands every year at the center, and educate more than 40,000 visitors annually at the beach and in the water about “reef etiquette” through its ReefTeach volunteer program.

“Keeping the bay healthy is critical not only to the communities surrounding Kahalu’u, but the region’s economy as well,” Punihaole said. “Kahalu’u Bay is a vital environmental, cultural, and economic asset to our island. But our work doesn’t have just a local impact: we think of our visitors, who come to Kahalu’u Bay from all over the world, as ambassadors who can carry our message home with them and make positive impacts on their local marine and aquatic environments. A quick interaction that promotes a behavior change as small and simple as not standing or stepping on coral can truly have a ripple effect across the planet.”

KBEC is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

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