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A day devoted to caring for Earth: Volunteer events planned throughout North Hawaii

April 14, 2017 - 1:00am

NORTH HAWAII — In celebration of Earth Day, residents can choose from six volunteer activities around the island, each focusing on ways to give back to the land.

Organized by The Kohala Center, the official name for the day is La Malama Honua, meaning “a day to care for our Earth” in Hawaiian.

On April 22, North Hawaii projects will be in Kohala, Pelekane, Waimea and Honokaa, and further south in Kahaluu and Kealakehe. Anywhere from 30-50 people can volunteer at each location, and all ages are welcome except at Pelekane Watershed where only children 9 and older are permitted due to rough terrain, little shade and no restroom facilities. Children at all events must be accompanied by an adult.

“These ideas came together somewhat organically,” said Liam Kernell, the Center’s director of communications. “It’s a great way to give island communities several options to be a part of Earth Day while also demonstrating several facets of the work that The Kohala Center does.”

From 10 a.m.-4 p.m. volunteers at The Kohala Center’s Demonstration Farm in Honokaa will learn about agroforestry and intercropping from David Sansone while weeding, tilling soil and harvesting kalo alongside students in the farmer training programs there. A potluck lunch will be provided.

“This will be a great opportunity for anyone who’s interested in learning more about farming and sustainable agriculture,” Kernell said.

From 8 a.m.-noon at Pelekane Watershed on the leeward coast of Kohala Mountain, tree planting will be the focus. Volunteers will meet at The Kohala Center in Waimea and carpool to the location. There, participants will add native trees and remove invasive vegetation along with the Kohala Watershed Partnership program crew to control erosion and sediment runoff.

Kohala and Waimea Elementary Schools are two locations where The Kohala Center FoodCorps Hawaii service members lead school garden and farm to school efforts. From 10 a.m.-noon at Kohala Elementary School, FoodCorps member Maylan Ackerman will lead volunteers on garden beautification efforts pulling weeds and pruning trees to cleaning garden beds and compost piles. From 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on the Waimea Elementary School campus participants will paint a mural, build garden beds, spread wood chips and clean up trash with FoodCorps member Tara Sakamoto.

“It’s a great way to invite families on campus to see what happens in the school gardens and to help keep them vibrant, thriving outdoor classrooms,” Kernell said.

Beach cleanup will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Kahaluu Beach Park in Kona. The group will clean up microlitter on the beach with the Kahaluu Bay Education Center team to prevent it from entering the bay and harming marine life, and do some light weeding in the park.

The final event begins at 9 a.m. in Kealakehe at Liliuokalani Recreation Center, where volunteers will pick up litter, build garden beds and construct rock walls. Lunch will be provided, and healthy snack donations are welcome.

The Kohala Center also hopes Earth Day will inspire people to do something beneficial for the environment in their communities.

“Caring for our environment is a shared kuleana we can and must do every day, so we hope these activities give people ideas on what they can do to help and meet others with shared interests. The more we work together, the greater impact we can have,” Kernell said.

For the Kohala, Pelekane, Waimea and Honokaa events, volunteers will need sturdy shoes or boots, hats, work gloves and sunscreen. To make the events zero-waste, The Kohala Center encourages bringing only reusable water bottles, and snack and lunches in reusable containers.

Time spent by volunteers on Earth Day will have long-lasting effects on the environment.

“Even though the work performed will all happen in one day, it will have impacts for generations,” Kernell said. “Planting trees helps our watershed capture and retain precious water and reduces soil erosion that can run off into the ocean. Cleaning beaches keeps litter from entering the ocean and thus our food supply, and keeps our marine life from becoming sick. Healthy farms and gardens produce food and give our keiki a deeper connection with the aina and appreciation of where their food comes from. Hopefully, people will understand that a few hours of their time can translate into years and decades of better health for our communities and our island planet.”

The Kohala Center was founded in 2000 as an independent, community-based center for research, conservation and education. Their main areas of interest are energy self-reliance, food self-reliance and ecosystem health.

Register: For any of the Earth Day activities go to

Info: Call The Kohala Center at 887-6411

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