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Volunteers Initiate No-Spray Trials at Public Parks

June 15, 2017, 10:02 AM HST
* Updated June 15, 10:14 AM
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KOKL students do the final clean up at Isaac Hale Beach Park. Photo courtesy of Greener Hawai‘i.

Volunteers in Puna, Honoka‘a and Waimea are joining an effort to stop herbicide use in three public parks by managing weed overgrowth themselves. Their efforts are part of an agreement with the county to discontinue herbicide use in public parks on a trial basis.

In March, community representatives met with Hawai‘i County Parks & Recreation Director Charmaine Kamaka and other county staff to voice their concerns about the health and environmental effects of herbicide use in local parks.

Herbicide opponents said the county’s main objection to discontinuing the practice was the extra labor needed to manage overgrowth including pruning and weed whacking.

But county officials agreed to discontinue herbicide use in three parks on a trial basis with the help of volunteers providing labor to maintain the areas.

“The Parks & Recreation Department is pleased to have formed a working relationship with these community Friends of the Park who have willingly donated their time and energy to this exciting project to reduce herbicide use at Hawai`i County Parks,” said Kamaka.

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Prior to beginning work, volunteer coordinators met with county representatives at Isaac Hale Beach Park, Honoka‘a Park and Waimea Town Park to understand the purpose behind spraying and create new plans to revitalize and beautify each location.

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At Isaac Hale Beach Park, volunteers began their first work day on April 26 with weed whacking, edging, trimming and hauling away cuttings.They also uprooted clumps of dead cane grass, replacing them with shrubs and ground cover provided by Rozett’s Nursery. Island Naturals Pahoa supported the volunteer-run effort by donating refreshments.

A class of first-graders from Kua o ka Lā New Century Public Charter School tackled the final clean-up at the park with Kumu Pomai Emsley. Their effort was part of a follow-up project to a letter-writing campaign in which students voiced their concerns about herbicide use at local parks.

One letter read: “I make leis. Are you spraying pesticides? We learned that pesticides are dangerous for my body and our planet. What do you think? From your friend, Adia.”

Friends of Honoka‘a Park discuss plans for Honoka’a Park. Photo courtesy of Greener Hawai‘i.

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Volunteers at Honoka‘a Park held their first meeting on April 30 to zone the 25-acre area according to specific tasks. At Waimea Town Park, volunteers met for their first work day on the morning of May 5 and began removing sprayed grasses.

The long-term goal of the herbicide-free trial is to find effective alternatives that are safer for people, wildlife and the environment, and can be used throughout Hawai‘i County.

Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, Chairperson of the Environmental Management Committee, will submit a revised county spraying ordinance for vote later this year. If passed, the county will need alternatives to spraying herbicide and the current trials may offer a working solution.

The Hale Beach Park work day was held on Wednesday, May 24.

Anyone interested in volunteering their time, experience or supplies may contact one of the Facebook groups set up for the park trials: Friends of Isaac Hale Beach Park, Friends of Honoka‘a Beach Park, Greener Hawai‘i Waimea Town or the over-arching Greener Hawai‘i 2.0.

For more information, contact Greener Hawai‘i at [email protected].

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