LAHAINA - Canoe Beach users have seen it: the bare earth that surrounds Hanakao'o Cemetery and the runoff of dirt that enters the ocean via Wahikuli Gulch after a rainfall.
It's a problem that has not gone unnoticed by West Maui residents.
"For 25 years, I have driven by the Hanakao'o Cemetery and thought that it seemed sad: hot, dry, dusty, with nothing growing there," said Patty Shelton, project engineer at Parsons Construction.
A year ago, while working on a project nearby, Shelton had an idea to plant native species in the area.
She believes that Hanakao'o Beach Park, also known as Canoe Beach, and its surrounding waters deserve a long-term solution to the erosion problem, which can affect coral reefs.
So, she spearheaded an effort to do just that. This Sunday, June 9, that idea will be set in motion when hundreds of native plants will be planted on the cemetery slope (see article on page 5).
Over the last couple of months, the thought blossomed into a collaborative, community initiative.
Multiple individuals, companies and organizations have stepped forward, offering their time and resources to support the undertaking, including Parsons, Kaanapali Operators Association, Convergent Conservation, Native Nursery, Maui Cultural Lands, CJ's Deli and Diner, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Irrigation Systems Inc., Maui Service Rentals, state Division of Aquatic Resources and Tri-Isle Inc.
"The idea really snowballed," said Shelton. "It was as if the resources just manifested themselves, with one kind donation after another."
While each individual's motivation varies, from a desire to beautify the historic site to those that want to protect coral health, the common theme appears to be a feeling of pride for the West Maui area.
"The ownership that people are showing for this event has been wonderful," said Shelton.
Also of note, at the planting, a new initiative will be launched that supports this spirit of community collaboration as well as personal action.
The campaign is called West Maui Kumuwai, and it's motto is simple: "If we each do a little, we can all do a lot."
"The goal is to inspire a movement for ocean health through everyday action, which means making simple choices at home or in your yard that will benefit the ocean and your community," said Tova Callender, the West Maui watershed and coastal management coordinator with the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, a partner of the campaign.
The West Maui Kumuwai campaign provides guidance on these "at-home" recommendations and is planning additional opportunities for community projects that benefit the ocean.
West Maui Kumuwai is a collaborative effort made up of Maui community members, individuals from non-profits, and state and federal agencies. The campaign's strategy is supported by the nonprofit SeaWeb, with funding provided by NOAA Coral. The campaign also supports the efforts of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative.
All are welcome to participate in the native planting on Sunday, June 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Hanakao'o Beach Park.
Bring gloves, garden tools, sunscreen and a water bottle. Breakfast, lunch and giveaways will be provided.
To learn more about the West Maui Kumuwai campaign and how you can get involved, visit the campaign's Facebook page or call Callender at (808) 214-4239.