From the beginning, Mālama Hulē‘ia has been supported by hundreds of volunteers from the Kauai community. This help from volunteers is the basis of our success and what allows us to aim ambitiously at eliminating invasive mangrove from the whole Hulē‘ia watershed, as we have done at the Pū‘ali wetland and are now working on at the Alakoko fishpond. Perhaps one reason for such community support is the high value that the people of Kaua‘i place on natural beauty and cultural significance.
Continuing help has come mainly from our local community. We have had occasional help from traveling volunteers and those who are part of state-wide organizations. Recently, a crew of volunteer heavy equipment operators (“the machine crew”) worked full time for about two months, starting on January 14. They were not Kaua‘i residents but individuals who live in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, they came to understand and embrace the mission of Mālama Hulē‘ia, as well as the culture and values of the Kaua`i community. And so they have committed their skills and time to the Alakoko project.
Bryan Valett, long time friend of Sara Bowen, Mālama Hulē‘ia Executive Director, learned of the Alakoko project while visiting and offered to volunteer his time during the mainland winter season when his work is usually down. He also hand picked a crew of highly skilled equipment operators. The crew, in addition to Bryan, consisted of Chuck Hayes, Howard Fox, Skylar Smith, Georges Parks and Brock Struthers. They all volunteered as individuals, independently of their work/company. Their Washington State-based firm, Strider Construction, permitted the equipment operators to help Mālama Hulē‘ia during the mainland off-season months. Bryan Valett also has relationships with a couple of environmental consulting firms that have also sent staff to assist.
What the machine crew achieved probably seemed pretty routine to them. But from the perspective of Mālama Hulē‘ia ’s past, their work was nothing less than heroic. In the course of their volunteering on Kauai, they have cleared more than 6.5 acres of mangrove from around the Alakoko fishpond. If we had to work those acres as we have at Pū‘ali, it would likely take us over 6 years to accomplish as much.
Of course the big excavators made a huge difference. But the dedicated and continuous volunteer time given has also been a big contributor to this quick success.
So we owe this team of heroes a huge mahalo! And as much as we appreciate their volunteering, they told us they were appreciative of the experience they had being immersed in the cultural significance of the work they did for the fishpond and community here. It was fitting that their stay ended with a Hawaiian style celebration staged for them by Mālama Hulē‘ia on the grounds of Alakoko.