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Funding Secured for Cleanup Efforts of Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Forest Reserve

May 11, 2021, 9:00 AM HST
* Updated May 11, 12:42 PM
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Hawai‘i Island legislators helped secure $200,000 to aid in the cleanup of Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a, a 100,000-year-old cinder cone on Hualalai. The funding will go toward removing remnants of former industrial uses of the property, scattered across the landscape near the beginning of the 3.2-mile-long trail on the lower slopes and reforestation of the higher slopes.

Rep. David Tarnas toured the ancient cinder cone with Dr. Elliott Parsons, of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) last week. Parsons detailed for Tarnas the scope of the $200,000 hazard removal program, which they hope to have finished by the end of next year.

“There’s a cinder block building, an old Quonset hut, a diesel fuel tank, and the potential of lead paint and asbestos issues, along with trash and debris, that will have to be taken care of,” Parsons explained. “We want to make sure this area is safe and nice and to have people able to utilize the hiking trail and enjoy their time at Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a.”

Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a is a prominent cinder cone, rising 3,967 feet above sea level between Maunakea and Hualālai volcanoes. It can be seen driving between Kailua-Kona and Waimea.

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“Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a is an asset of statewide significance, so we really needed to make sure we addressed the concerns here to allow for safe access for recreational purposes,” Tarnas said.

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Parsons calls it a remarkable land feature. The cinder cone is an estimated 100,000-years-old, much older than the surrounding lava flows of between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.

“It’s an amazing view from the top, with views of the 1859 lava flows from Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Hualālai. Reforestation efforts over the past 20 years have included the plantings of 40-60 native species. The landscape is enormous,” Parsons added.

Hikers can look to the southwest to a State Wildlife Sanctuary which supports numerous Hawaiian honeycreepers like, ‘apapane, ‘i‘iwi, and ‘amakihi. The diverse, restored forest near the summit of the cone includes koa, māmane and kolea.

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“It’s a great place to recreate, and hiking on the trail is really good exercise,” Parsons said. “I try to come up here once a week, as it’s a really special place with a lot of cultural significance as well.”

Tarnas hopes that the cinder block building might be able to be repurposed, depending on findings of lead paint and asbestos.

“Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a has historical and cultural significance, in addition to its natural resource values,” Tarnas said. “There are numerous pre-contact stories about this place and post-contact stories that have been captured as oral histories about the region’s ranching heritage.”

An active cattle ranch is still in operation at the base of the cinder cone. Visitors will undoubtedly see a lot of cows, sheep, and goats, which are not native, and eventually will be kept out of sensitive natural areas by additional fencing.

The video and featured photo are courtesy of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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