E Maka‘ala, E Mālama – Our Community Remains Vigilant in Our Care of Pololū
By Lehua Ah Sam
If you visit Pololū today, you may notice some subtle improvements. First thing you will now likely see is the face of a kamaʻāina, a native of Kohala, there to greet you, and orient you to Pololū Valley. These kamaʻāina faces are the stewards of Pololū, the first of their kind in Hawaiʻi. These stewards are supported through the continued collaborative efforts of Nā Ala Hele, KUPU, Protect Pololū Project, and with funding support from Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and the generous donation of the Nā Kūpuna organization. Jordan Barlan was recently hired and will be joining our current stewards Aunty Sarah Pule-Fujii and Uncle Paul Ishikuro at Pololū lookout on the weekends.
Interpretive signs have also recently been added to the trailhead. These interpretive signs share valuable information about the valley, including the expectations for visitors. Visitors are made aware of the lack of bathroom facilities and the dangerous trail conditions. The sign shares images and stories from Pololū’s history. There is also a reminder that non-permitted camping is prohibited on the state managed beach parcel by §13-221-15 under the authority of HRS §171-6. “From the tourist standpoint, I think the sign does its job and supports the stewards in education.” says Loa Patao an ʻohana lead in the Protect Pololū Project.
Education of visitors has become a major priority as numbers continue to increase. The closure of Waipio valley along with the release of travel restrictions to Hawaiʻi have meant numbers of visitors have reached as high as 730 visitors to Pololū Valley during an 8-hour period on a weekday during the month of March. Numbers easily exceed 1,000 over the weekends. The Protect Pololū Project and the ʻohana of Pololū have called out for volunteers to help steward the lookout because the sheer number of visitors is just overwhelming. Influencers, hiking groups, and social media marketing that utilize geotagging, and images of Pololū are directly responsible for the increase in visitors. Stewards encourage visitors to Pololū to be more aware of their social footprint on Pololū when they choose to “tag” this special wahi pana (storied pace). “I’m telling our visitors when sharing their photos please don’t say where they at. Just say, ‘somewhere over the rainbow.’ They ask me why, and I tellʻum, ‘too much people here. Sharing will bring more.’” says Aunty Sarah.
Other ʻohana members are engaging directly with our concierge desk and community members who work directly in the tourism industry. These workers, our own Kohala ʻohana, are our front line of defense with visitors. They often influence where a visitor will leave their footprint. Our ʻohana love Pololū, so this is just one simple, yet impactful way to help protect this special place.
While all these awesome programs, and partnerships at Pololū are becoming models for other communities across Hawaiʻi, the threat to Pololū is more imminent today than ever before. In March 2022, Aloha Kohala Realty publicly listed for sale the famous “Mule Station’’ property at Makanikahiō. While our community speculated that this listing would occur soon, many were shocked to see the owner, KP Holding LLC, a subsidiary of Surety Kohala Corporation, included in the listing a 2.5-acre beach front parcel bottom of the of Pololū Valley trail, which Surety has attached to the Mule Station parcel listing. The combined 44.5-acre total is listed for an equally shocking price of $25 Million.
The Protect Pololū Project has reached out to a local land trust to engage their help in acquiring these parcels for conservation. Previously Surety Kohala has shown a reluctance to engage with land trusts and other community led conservation purchasers, even for this particular parcel. In 2018 a Kohala community organization nominated the Mule Station and an adjoining parcel to the County’s PONC priority open space list in an effort to purchase and protect this parcel through conservation. “Surety Kohala’s land manager then attended a PONC hearing and threatened to withdraw from discussions of a promised donation of land for a parking lot if the nomination was considered. The organization withdrew the nomination.” informs Toni Withington who worked on the PONC proposal.
Protect Pololū Project, North Kohala’s Community Access group, and all our ʻohana and community partners are keeping a vigilant eye on this parcel listing while investigating all options to protect Pololū. If you would like to kōkua, help us volunteer, help us in pule (prayer) and protocol. Our Pololū ʻohana is calling out for lei lāʻī (single strand ti-leaf lei) to join together again in prayer, protocol and protection for Pololū. Drop off the lei with our ʻohana at Keokea Beach Park on Saturday, April 30, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sign up for our Mālama Pololū – May Day on May 1. We will begin with protocol and the draping of the lei at sunrise. Following protocol will be trailhead, trail and beach maintenance from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteer spaces are limited due to safety protocol. Visit www.protectpololu.com to sign up, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. While we cannot close the trail because of the current legal system, we also ask that everyone spreads the word to allow Pololū to rest that day. Let those with function reciprocate our aloha to Pololū and let the rest of us enjoy our ʻohana and friends at other places in our community for May Day. E mālama kākou iā Pololū, we all collectively will protect Pololū.
Kohala Coqui Coalition Comes to a Close
By Kim Takata
After nearly two decades of working to “Keep Kohala Coqui Free,” the Kohala Coqui Coalition is sad to announce they are shutting down active operations. Battling this noisy invasive frog has been a challenging campaign over the years. We successfully treated and eradicated hundreds of infestations and became the model for success on the Big Island. However, with the increased pressure of coquis coming in on automobiles, new construction, landscape plants, and county vehicles, several infestations became out of control. With time, coquis dominated some locations, mostly inaccessible gulches, and their numbers continue to grow larger today. In recent years, it has been very difficult to find workers willing to go out at night and work in treacherous terrain to treat known infestations. It has been frustrating to receive reports of coquis on the Coqui Hotline only to reply that we no longer have the manpower to do eradications.
The Coalition has nearly exhausted the State funding we received for the past five years and there isn’t much prospect of obtaining substantial new funding. The Coalition plans to support our community with the remaining funds as long as possible, by providing products free of charge for anyone wanting to eradicate coquis on their property. The coalition website, kohalacoquicoalition.org, will remain available offering valuable information for safe coqui eradication. In addition, information brochures will be available in several stores in Hāwī, Kapaʻau, and Niuliʻi. We continue to encourage neighbors to pool their resources and effort to keep their community free of coquis.
The Kohala Coqui Coalition was formed in 2003, when a large coqui infestation was discovered in a gulch bordering two local nurseries. With the efforts of a small group of people, the community came together with the goal of preventing an invasive noisy frog from disturbing the peace and quiet of our neighborhoods. In retrospect, many thanks go to Bob Martin, a founder of the North Kohala Community Resource Center, who attended the first meeting and quickly helped the Kohala Coqui Coalition become a sponsored project of the North Kohala Community Resource Center (NKCRC). Under the umbrella of NKCRC, a 501(c)(3), the Coalition raised $17,000 from businesses and local residents in the first month. The money was used to completely eradicate the first large infestation in North Kohala. From there, Christine Richardson, Executive Director of NKCRC for 17 years, managed to obtain steady funding from County and State grants as well as many private donors throughout the years. Many thanks go to Christine and the staff of NKCRC for all the work and effort that was required to obtain and manage these grants.
The years of battling coquis would never have happened without the “on the ground” leadership of Ralph Blancato and the many workers he led into gnarly gulches, pastures, and people’s backyards over the years, eradicating coqui frogs. He never gave up and often went out alone, determined to keep them at bay.
Also, thanks to all those who volunteered to eradicate, monitor the coqui hotline, set up information booths at many local events, and/or donated money to the Coalition. It is because of all of you that the Coqui Coalition was successful. North Kohala was the only district on the Big Island that recognized how severe this infestation would be and stepped up and acted. How lucky we are to live here!
For more information, go to http://www.kohalacoquicoalition.org.
As the Coqui Coalition ends twenty years of education and
eradication in North Kohala, the Coalition and community extends a Big Mahalo to Kim Takata. Kim led the Coalition for 15 years with grace, determination and humor. She saw right away what an
important environmental effort this was and took the reins with humility and kindness. Kim was a great project organizer at NKCRC and it was a pleasure to work with her, strategizing ways to raise both money and awareness in the community. She tracked all the data, did all the bookkeeping and worked closely with NKCRC staff on the many reports needed to insure funding. Big Island Invasive Species Council (BIISC) recognized her hard work in 2018. Kim exemplifies community service. I treasure the time we had working together and thank her for her great work in Kohala. -Christine Richardson
Hisaoka Gym to be Re-fit for Emergency Shelter
By Toni Withington
The County of Hawaii has taken the first steps needed for a $7 to 10 million retrofit of Ikuo Hisaoka Gym in Kamehameha Park to make it safe as an emergency shelter during times of high winds.
The County Council Finance Committee has been asked to receive $800,000 of federal funds through the Community Development Block Grant Program of the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. The funds would be to cover the architectural and engineering work to make needed wind retrofits to the building.
“We are seeking funding for this capital work, including applying to FEMA hazard mitigation grants through the State,” Councilmember Tim Richards said in an email. FEMA is the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance Program.
He explained that the funds are specifically for planning, which is expected to bring the project up to what is called “shovel-ready,” meaning construction is ready to go as soon as funds are identified.
According to the Planning Department, the project was identified as a priority because the gym is the only site that can serve as a high-wind emergency shelter facility in North Kohala after the hardening and retrofits are complete.
Although the gym was built under previous guidelines for emergency shelter, the roof has repeatedly leaked in sub-hurricane weather. Other improvements to the gym, such as improved spectator stands, are already identified in the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.
Pickleball Fun in Kohala
By Eila Algood and Kathie Babben
Do you like to laugh while exercising? Well then you may want to play pickleball. It’s what’s happening here in Kohala twice a week. It all started (in Kohala) in 2018 thanks to David Ebrahimi, a.k.a Uncle David. He wanted a sport that would be accessible for people over 50. According to AARP magazine, over 60 percent of all pickleball players are over 55. The game is played on a small version tennis court. There is a net, a little lower than a tennis net, and small, lightweight plastic balls with holes that are hit back and forth with short wooden paddles. There are boundary lines and even an area known as the kitchen. The scoring is different than tennis and the game is usually played with two people on either side of the net. Because there is less court to cover, the game is much gentler on the body. Quick movements are more useful than slamming the ball. That being said, most players like to smash it once in a while.
Through his research, David learned that the Hisaoka Gym in Kamehameha Park had pickleball equipment that was barely being used. Park staff pointed David to the outdoor basketball courts as a place to play and that’s where it began. In 2019, the group was invited to play inside the gym, which was a better option considering the Kohala winds, winter rains and inability to play in the dark. There were three indoor courts, with boundary lines taped, providing space for 12 players at a time. Interest had grown and pickleball life was all good until March of 2020. With lockdown and the closure of the gym, all group activities stopped.
Fortunately, at the end of 2020, the Parks and Recreation Department opened up the park and the group was invited back but had to play outside. David marked out one of the tennis courts to accommodate pickleball, and so it began again. In October 2021, the gym opened, and pickleball moved back inside.
A garden variety of people play: snowbirds, tennis enthusiasts, ping pong lovers, athletes and non-athletes, folks of all ages and experience levels. David sets the friendly tone for welcoming all abilities by encouraging the more experienced to be kind in guiding the newer players. He has a talent for teaching and coaching players, which helps everyone improve their game.
David organized a fun Pickleball Tournament that took place in the gym on March 19. Although a bit more competitive than the regular games, there were still a lot of laughs. It was a high energy and, for some of us, exhausting seven rounds of play. There were 20 players – seven from Oregon and 13 from Kohala. David did an amazing job at matching players up with partners as well as setting up the space and providing the balls and extra racquets. Lisa Ebrahimi brought healthy snacks and drinks to keep everyone energized.
The first-place winners were Ruben of Hāwī and Sally of Oregon, each taking home a paddle-shaped cutting board and a huge jar of pickles! Second place winners received a jar of gherkins, and third place winners got a little jar of capers.
Now, you may be wondering why it’s called pickleball, of all things. In 1965, Joel Prichard and Barney MacCallum developed the game. Joel’s wife, Joan Prichard, suggested calling it pickleball because, as a competitive rower, the game reminded her of a pickle boat, which is a mismatched crew boat team. The name stuck and seemed to have set the tone for a playful, fun experience. As of February 2022, there were 4.8 million players (plus those of us in Kohala) showing a two-year growth rate of nearly 40 percent, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association report.
On a personal note, I have played many sports over the duration of my life, but nothing evokes the sense of camaraderie and laughter like this pickleball group. It doesn’t have the formal vibe of tennis and, because we all play in close proximity to one another, there’s ample opportunity for chatting and interacting.
If you’d like to give it a try, go to the Hisaoka Gym at Kamehameha Park in Kapaʻau on Tuesday or Thursday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. or email email@example.com.
Ma‘i Movement Aims to End Period Poverty
Maʻi Movement Hawaiʻi is a nonprofit organization committed to ending period poverty in Hawai’i through providing feminine products and education. Period poverty is defined as the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.
While the term period poverty is relatively new in the medical literature, menstrual hygiene management has been used for decades in the context of the gender gap in education for youth living in low- and middle-income countries.
NoKo Theater and Nostalgia Music Consortium, Inc.
By Frank Palani Cipriani
Noko Theater Arts and Nostalgia Jazz Lab has been a collaboration for nearly two years, in partnership with the Kohala Artists’ Cooperative, to teach our respective arts to the children in our community. The Kohala Artists’ Cooperative has graciously provided us use of their facility for our respective venues since January 2020.
In spite of Covid-19, our programs have grown in size and scope, with the addition of more students, as well as piano, bandstand, instruments, sound stage, light stage and a planned video production suite. We have outgrown the Artists’ Co-op and must seek another home where we can grow and blossom to our full potential.
The vision for the Nostalgia Music Consortium is to establish a permanent center for teaching theater arts, dance and music to children. We will meet every Saturday for Jazz Lab and to schedule activities. These include things such as mentored music lessons for students in various musical instruments, rehearsal sessions, invitational joint jam sessions, as well as instruction in technical theater arts, sound stage, light stage, video production and associated technical skills. We will invite select local musicians to mentor students for an hour or so, scheduled every Saturday, with their respective instruments and to schedule performances combining mentors and students. We will schedule auditions for students wishing to enter the program, with parents’ permission. Public relations outreach will be via the Kohala Mountain News, KNKR North Kohala radio and the “Coconut Wireless.”
We bring to the Nostalgia Music Consortium a full bandstand including piano, twin congas, a drum set, microphones, professional public address system, sound board mixer, light stage, and sheet music for the curriculum course of study. In addition, we are planning to acquire a video production suite and will lead technical classes in its operation for students wanting that skill set.
The ability to meet all day on Saturdays will greatly add to the flexibility of the operation, allowing us to organize the scheduling of all the various activities in a timely manner.
Additionally, a permanent bandstand and video production studio can be licensed to other venues wishing to use the facility to record their performances. We will provide our student “techie” to assist. We will seek grants and consorts to fund our Project.
The VISION is: “To turn Saturdays at Nostalgia Music into a day of Education and Celebration of Music, Dance, & Theater Arts in our Community of North Kohala.”
Hawai‘i State House of Representatives Update
From the Desk of District 7 Representative David Tarnas
Aloha. The 2022 legislative session is rapidly approaching its conclusion, with the last day of session scheduled for May 5. By then, the House and Senate will have negotiated the final language in bills that will receive a final vote in both chambers before being sent to the Governor. Governor Ige will then decide if he will sign the bill into law, allow the bill to become law without his signature or reject the bill by exercising his veto power. If both the House and Senate agree to override the Governor’s veto, the legislature can do so.
At the legislature, I work on your behalf to support bills that would benefit the State and to reject bills that would be detrimental. In this month’s column, I share an update about the priority measures approved by the House Water and Land Committee, on which I serve as Chair. I also review the status of a handful of bills that North Kohala residents have requested information about, on topics which have received widespread media coverage.
WATER AND LAND COMMITTEE’S MID-SESSION HIGHLIGHTS
The priority bills heard and approved by the House Water and Land Committee are now nearing the finish line of the legislative process. These bills include:
– Wildlife rehabilitation services: SB573 requires all those required to have a Habitat Conservation Plan to have a service agreement with a facility that provides emergency medical care and rehabilitation services for injured wildlife.
– Aquatic resource violation enforcement: HB1653 increases the penalties for those who violate aquatic resource laws and rules, especially for repeat offenders committing multiple violations.
– Environmental damage mitigation: SB204 authorizes DLNR to charge fees to those whose activities cause environmental damage, such as coral reef destruction, for example. Those fees will fund the State government to conduct ecosystem rehabilitation or wildlife conservation work
-Drone fishing: SB2065 prohibits the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in state marine waters for fishing purposes.
– Fishpond stocking: The State Budget (HB 1600) includes funding for DLNR to produce juvenile fish for the purposes of stocking fishponds.
ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION OF INTEREST
Allowing Casino Gambling on Hawaiian Homelands
Whether to allow gambling in the State has been a controversial topic at the Legislature for years. Several bills considered the issue this session. Those include HB1962 and SB2608, which would have required the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) to evaluate the feasibility of limited casino gaming on DHHL property. Each of these bills have now been shelved and will not move forward this session.
Reducing the DUI Blood Alcohol Cutoff Limit
Two bills, HB1437 and SB2096, were introduced at the request of the Maui County Council to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for the offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, from 0.08 to 0.05 percent. SB2096 passed the Senate and crossed over to the House, but it did not receive a hearing before the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee. Neither measure remains under consideration for this session.
Electronic Device Ticketing at Stoplights
SB663, signed into law as Act 131 by Governor Ige in 2019, established a red light running committee to develop policy recommendations for red light running pilot programs. The project is beginning with a pilot study on Oahu, during which the Department of Transportation team will study the number of red-light signal violations before and after installation of red light imaging detector systems. HB2336 and SB3312 were introduced this session to adjust this law to better reflect the legislative intent and updated timeline of the photo red light imaging detector pilot program. The program’s primary objective is to deter dangerous driving behavior at stoplight intersections, while reducing the police time and court costs necessary to enforce the law.
Waste Reduction and Extended Producer Responsibility
HB2399 establishes an extended producer responsibility program, which requires producers of certain consumer goods to pay an annual fee based on the amount of packaging volume the producer places on the market each year. These funds will be used to work towards reducing the volume of packaging waste sent to disposal facilities. This bill has been approved by both the House and Senate in different versions. The two chambers will need to reach agreement on the final bill language by the end of April for it to move forward for final approval. At the end of session, I will mail to all registered voters a summary of the bills passed by the legislature. I will also highlight the bills we have passed in my article next month. Please contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org and 808-586-8510 with your ideas, opinions about proposed legislation, or any other matter related to State government. You can also subscribe to my e-newsletter at bitly.com/reptarnas-signup. Mahalo!
County Council Update
From the Desk of District 9 Councilmember Tim Richards
Aloha! Once again, it is time for the monthly update from our office.
COUNTY FUEL TAX
During Council Committee meetings on April 5, a resolution was brought before us exploring the possibility of reducing our current county fuel tax from 23 cents per gallon to 13 cents per gallon, a reduction of 10 cents per gallon. This fuel tax is paid by residents and visitors alike. It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of that tax is being paid by visitors.
As most of you are aware of by now, I am a numbers person who reviews history and looks at the big picture when trying to make a decision.
For the fuel taxes here on the Big Island, per gallon the federal government takes 18.4 cents, the state gets 16 cents, and the County receives 23 cents. (Diesel is similar but a little higher in some instances; this conversation is focused on gasoline only.)
The federal fuel tax started back in June 1932, put forth by President Roosevelt’s administration to fund the then-crumbling infrastructure nationally. That one cent increase may not sound like much today; however, gasoline was only 18 cents per gallon at that time, so it was perceived as a relatively large tax. From there the fuel tax has gone through many evolutions and re-authorizations, with one of the notables being in the 1950s under President Eisenhower to fund the federal freeway interstate system. The last time it was raised was back in the 1990s, and currently the concerns are the inflation over the last 30 years has outpaced the buying power of that funding.
So where are we now? Retail gasoline is somewhere around $5.25 to $5.50 per gallon in most places. Of that, approximately 57 cents per gallon is the combined fuel tax. The resolution that was put before us would reduce the county portion by 10 cents per gallon, about 40 percent of our portion. On a 20-gallon fill up, that would be $2.00. Assuming a family drives 12,000 miles a year in a car that gets 20 miles per gallon, that is a savings of $60.00 a year. A notable amount, but what about the impact?
Currently, our county has some 1,000 miles of road to maintain. When I took office in 2016 the repaving cycle was once every 60 years or so. It is now somewhere around once every 35 years but needs to be about once every 20 years, more often for the high traffic roads. Much of our funding for this comes through the State Transportation Improvement Projects, or “STIP,” funds. This is the funding that comes through the state, often mostly funded by the federal government. For Hawaiʻi County to participate in this funding, we must have a 20 percent match. As an example, the Waikoloa Road from Māmalahoa Highway down to Queen Kaʻahumanu, about 11 miles, is a $50 million project. The county must have $10 million to receive the other $40 million. Without any match we get nothing. I have been working very diligently on making this project and others come to fruition. Recently the County has taken over the maintenance of the road from Hāwī to Pololū Valley. Eventually this road will also need resurfacing and the funding will come from a similar project.
The resolution that was before us would, in effect, reduce our access to this funding. Conversation during our discussion talked about this being temporary, but for whatever reason that language was not in the resolution. The return on investment for our highways is high through the program, as we put in $1.00 and get $4.00 matched to improve our highways.
I voted no on this resolution as the language to make it temporary was not in the resolution and the potential benefit of its current rate far outweighs the small relief proposed. A public hearing is being scheduled for April 19 to receive public input on this matter. I look forward to your comments. I hope this explains the issue from all perspectives.
As always, it continues to be a great privilege to serve as your Councilman and I look forward to working toward solutions in 2022 and beyond.
World Down Syndrome Day
World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated on March 21 every year in honor of those born with trisomy of the 21st chromosome, or Down Syndrome. This year Malia and Eugene Dela Cruz of North Kohala got their boys – Kamakoa Dela Cruz (age 17), Jhace Kaipo (age 17) and Conquer Libron-Crabbe (age 6) – together, wearing the same t-shirts, to honor them and their uniqueness.
CDP Re-organization Takes Focus
By Toni Withington
While still not ready to convene its first official meeting, those seeking to reinstate Kohala’s voice in County affairs took steps this month to widen the representation from the community.
The ad hoc group has been working successfully with the Planning Department for six months to replace the former Action Committee of the North Kohala Community Development Plan (NKCDP) with a forum that reflects more accurately residents’ views.
Plans for the structure of a nine-member advisory group have been worked out already, but details such as the name of the committee and who might first serve are still at bay. For example, should members represent Kohala’s various “neighborhoods,” or whether it should be called the Kohala Council rather than Kohala Advisory Group?
But the clear objective of the nine community members who participated in the meeting on March 22 is to motivate people to get active in community affairs, especially as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
A decision was made to energize the existing sub-groups as well as those subgroups that have taken a break because of the pandemic. The eight subgroups at first represented the various goals and strategies named in chapters of the NKCDP, which was made County planning ordinance in 2008. Until the Action Committee ceased to function in mid-2019, the groups had met monthly to take up issues of importance and relay them to the Action Committee.
“What motivates Kohala people to get out and say something?” asked Collin Kaholo. “Issues. Something that affects them.” Because the subgroups are better able to study and address individual issues, new community participants might be attracted to attending, even joining, the subgroup meetings.
The subgroups evolved to implement the goals of the NKCDP. The groups are: Kohala Community Access; Parks, Water, Roads; Affordable Housing; Growth Management; Power, Viewplains and Erosion Control; Agriculture; Historic and Cultural; and Health and Wellness.
Joe Carvalho suggested encouraging the first three, which are still meeting, and re-invigorating the others by encouraging past participants to get them going again. Holding the meetings in the same location on different days would help keep the chairpersons from having to scramble for a place to meet. Kamehameha Park was identified as a central location.
To reach out to new participants, plans were made to have information booths at community events such as the monthly Kohala Night Market at the HUB, the Kohala Reunion, the Earth Day Celebration as well as stories in the paper and on KNKR. A single email address, email@example.com, was chosen as the location to sign up and get information about meeting locations and times. An outreach will be made on social media as well.
Issues that were identified as current concerns are the:
– rising cost of gasoline,
– loss of agriculture water from the Kohala Ditch,
– planning of Māhukona Park facilities,
– lack of affordable housing,
– establishment of neighborhood watch programs,
– construction projects on both gymnasiums,
– changes to Kohala’s power grid,
– need for park upkeep, and
– handling of heavier visitor traffic.
“These can be addressed by the subgroups and a central NKCDP organization, but only if people are willing to carry their concerns into action,” said John Winter, a former chair of the Action Committee and an organizer of the latest re-vitalization. “Kohala deserves a place at the table.”
Beyond just implementing the fourteen-year-old NKCDP, participants decided to include early discussions about revisions to the plan to reflect more accurately the theme of “Keep Kohala Kohala,” given the new challenges facing the post-pandemic world. CDPs are supposed to be reviewed every ten years, so an official Planning Department effort is expected.
Community Planning of New Māhukona Park to Begin
By Toni Withington
While engineering efforts to demolish the condemned Māhukona Beach Park pavilion drag on, Mālama Māhukona, an official Friends of the Park group, has been given the go-ahead to start thinking about how the new park will be laid out and landscaped.
Because the County Department of Parks and Recreation (P&R) has promised to encourage the park users to be part of the expected long planning process, any initial layout would only be considered a proposal, Michelle Hiraishi, deputy director of P&R, told members of Mālama Māhukona at their monthly meeting. But it would get the discussion going.
Members of the group had expressed frustration at the department’s slow handling of the pavilion demolition process. The 70-year-old pavilion was condemned and boarded up over three years ago. P&R has yet to sign a contract to even explore the engineering needed to plan the demolition, much less contract its removal.
Mālama Māhukona has offered to begin the work of landscaping parts of the park prior to the building of the new facilities but asked why the department can’t begin the design while waiting for the demolition. Hiraishi conceded that the community can start the discussion on its own, knowing that environmental and engineering considerations will have to be followed.
The $400,000 now available are to be used for demolition and the building of a temporary platform for use while planning and construction of a permanent structure are underway. Concern was expressed that delays are keeping the park from having access to recent federal infrastructure funding for “shovel ready” projects.
Hiraishi outlined the ways the group can design the initial landscaping and schedule workdays. She said P&R could supply some materials and supplies as well as help publicize events where clearing and planting can take place.
Nani Rasmussen, chair of Mālama Māhukona, asked if P&R could do fundraising to support park improvements. Hiraishi said that County offices cannot do fundraising, which could be done by the local group. Karen Martinez said that local expertise is available to assess issues like climate change and sea level rise. Patty Solomon asked if the department has a copy of the historic sites review that was done years ago.
Hiraishi said she would supply maps of the 15 acres of land available for the park, though no one thought the footprint of the park’s usable area might be that large. The cost of maintenance would be a controlling factor. Although in the past the department has had to struggle with a $400,000 annual budget to maintain 300 park facilities, Hiraishi said the budget for next year is expected to be boosted to $1 million.
Kohala Senior Club Resumes Activities
Kohala Senior Club meetings have resumed every Monday morning (except holidays) at 9:00 in the building above the King Kamehameha statue. Returning and new members are welcome. Masks are optional. For more information, contact Faye Yates at 808-225-3666.
Update on North Kohala Recycling
By Holly Algood
Recently, I was asked if I knew of an updated guide to County recycling in North Kohala. These last couple of years we have seen profound change, and our recycling programs were not excluded. The most recent change has been the suspension of e-waste recycling from April 1 through July 1, due to the loss of State funding.
As far as an updated guide to our local Kaʻauhuhu transfer station in Hāwī, here are the highlights:
– The Kaʻauhuhu Transfer Station is open Monday through Sunday from 6:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.
– Household trash can be thrown down the main chute daily at the above hours.
– Clean corrugated cardboard and brown paper bags can be deposited makai of the main chute in the container and clean glass bottles (other than HI-5s) can be deposited in the container next to the cardboard collection bin closer to the gate.
– Scrap metal – including appliances, clean cans, lids and metal bottle caps – can be deposited in the mauka container Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but NOT on Sunday.
– Residential green waste can be deposited in the household chute as long it is not longer than 4’ (excluding palm fronds) and less than 6” in diameter. The County accepts only one load per day per customer/vehicle.
– Hi-5’s (the drink bottles and cans redeemable for five cents) can be turned in Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the depot next to the transfer station.
As there is too much information on recycling countywide to recite here, check out the County’s website (www.Hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle) for information about other local transfer stations. It is important to note that times open and services offered differ by location.
This website is a vast resource with much detail. Find links for recycling everything from paint to automobiles.
Learn about worthwhile programs available to recycle and reuse your no-longer-wanted items. Some of the links include Hawaii Electric’s Rid-a-Fridge program, where they will pick up full-sized appliances (over 14 cubic feet) and another section on how to dispose of hazardous waste materials.
Programs are available to help with automobiles no longer needed and information about where to pick up free mulch. The Zero Waste site is both informative and useful. Visit for suggestions about what to do with just about anything that is no longer wanted and recommendations for how castoffs can be reused or recycled to keep our ʻāina more pristine.
Back to the recent suspension of the e-waste program, if spring cleaning leaves you needing to get rid of e-waste before July, visit Mr. K’s in Hilo at 815 Kinoole Street in Hilo.
You can check out their recycling services and fees by visiting their website www.mrksrecyclehawaii.com or call Mr. K’s at 808 969-1222.
Now that we are getting out more, why not clear out unneeded items. It’s good for the ʻāina and good for us all.
Traffic Roundabout Proposed for Waiaka Intersection
By Toni Withington
The long-awaited improvements to the dangerous intersection at Waiaka Bridge, where Kohala Mountain Road meets Kawaihae Road in Waimea, will include a roundabout, not a signal light.
Announcement of the new plans were revealed in a Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) last month for what is expected to be a $10 million replacement of the 80-year-old bridge, which has been deemed “functionally obsolete” for many years. The intersection, near Hawaii Preparatory School (HPA), is particularly dangerous for traffic to and from North Kohala and is subject to long delays at peak traffic hours.
The selection of the roundabout as the only solution was a change from a DEA completed in 2019 that also offered as alternates two T-intersections, one with a signal light. The current report dropped those choices, saying the roundabout would cut delays and outperform a T-intersection. It said the roundabout scenario had “strong support from the community.”
The proposed traffic flow would improve the line of sight from both roads, would meet state and federal design guidelines, and improve the flow of Keanu`i`omano Stream, the engineers reported. The bridge would be lengthened to 80 feet.
The roundabout would have a 30-foot diameter island with 12-foot-wide single lane pavement, 8-foot-wide shoulder, and a 5-foot-wide bike/pedestrian path. Traffic would remain at 25 miles per hour. The change would require the purchase of over 9,000 square feet of land, mostly from HPA.
Construction is projected to begin in the summer of 2023 and be completed at the end of 2024. A bypass bridge mauka of the current bridge would handle traffic during construction. The permitting process is expected to take more than a year.
Comments on the Draft EA were to be submitted by April 22. A copy of the document can be seen at https://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/erp/Doc_Library/2022-03-23-HA-DEA-Kawaihae-Road-Replacement-of-Waiaka-Bridge-and-Realignment-of-Approaches.pdf.
North Kohala Tool Library Moves Forward
Story and photos by Libby Leonard
North Kohala’s very own nonprofit tool library is coming closer to fruition.
Founded by David Gibbs, alongside Lani Bowman, Alicia Veloria, David Fuertes, Matt Jakielski and Adrian Thalasinos Haley, the library has recently become a newly sponsored community project by the North Kohala Resource Center.
The nonprofit, whose mission is to support and elevate the community, while having a positive impact on the environment, plans to not only make home and construction tools more accessible at little to no cost, but also other things like food processing and farming equipment, catering and party hosting items, carpet and grout cleaners, and whatever else can be useful.
“Basically, it’s to increase our resilience,” said Gibbs. With a background in engineering, construction, and homesteading, Gibbs got the idea from a phone call with his sister, who simply asked if Kohala had one. Only vaguely familiar with the idea, he did some research to find there were hundreds of tool libraries all over the world.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together, because it becomes a meeting center,” said Thalasinos Haley, who managed a tool library in Portland Oregon, before moving to the Big Island to be with his ʻohana.
According to Alicia Veloria, who is an experienced builder and passionate environmental advocate, it also has the capacity to eliminate more waste in the landfills for those who just buy tools and only use them once, then potentially end up throwing them out.
To gauge interest and needs, the nonprofit put out a survey in December.
A vast majority who participated said they borrowed tools from time to time.
One third resorted to renting, and 74 percent said they got discouraged from starting a project due to lack of access to tools.
The survey also sought out who may want to donate tools, which garnered a lot of positive feedback, with people already wanting to donate.
Among them was Teri Freeman, whose husband recently passed away. She said they had a lot of tools from building their house, and while she wanted to keep a few things, she’d rather give them to the library so they could be used by the community.
The nonprofit, which is hoping to be in full operation by April 2023, is still seeking a location. The group’s goals are to budget a $20 per hour position for a kamaʻaina tool specialist to manage it, an online database and eventually a makerspace to have DIY workshops for all ages.
For more information, visit their Facebook page, where you can take the survey (also accessed at https://forms.gle/GbDuTvdnmUsuyjwHA), or check out their booth at the First Wednesday Kohala Night Market.
To make a tax-deductible donation, visit https://de.northkohala.org/donations/donate and type in “North Kohala Tool Library.”
Easter Excitement at the Kohala Village HUB
Photo by Bennett Dorrance
Esther (Tricia Storie) the Easter Bunny delights children with her basket of honey sticks.
Kamehameha, Ke Ali‘i Hanohano – Kamehameha, the Revered Chief
By ʻEkela Kahuanui
On Saturday, June 11, Kohala will pay tribute with ceremony, lei, hula, mele (songs) and oli (chants) to Kamehameha Paiea, the fearless king.
While many in the lāhui (Hawaiian nation) believe him to only have been a conqueror, we need to remember that his leadership also brought an era of peace and growth, as well as an establishment of the aupuni (government structure).
Kamehameha spent his life creating a foundation of a nation from which the lāhui continues to rise, shaping the indentity of Hawaiians. For this and many other reasons, we celebrate his life and praise him as leader extraordinaire.
A paʻu parade is also planned to begin at 9:00 a.m., starting at the Kohala school complex. The paʻu tradition is unique to Hawaiʻi, dating back to the 1800s.
Aliʻi and other women would drape many yards of fabric around their dresses to protect them from being soiled as they journeyed to distant regions on horseback.
The paʻu princess brings honor to the island she represents, the community she comes from, and the King she’s there to honor.
The princesses this year are Hawaiʻi – Caylah Siedel-Glory, Maui – Presley Matsu, Kohoʻolawe – Kristian Ellazar, Lanai – Puanani Tayan-Smith, Molokaʻi – Phyllis Freitas Badayos, Kauaʻi – Laura Bodell, Oʻahu – Renee Bautista and Niʻihau – Antonette “Missy” Fernandez.
Please join us as we celebrate Kohala’s most beloved son on June 11 at his statue.
Support provided by Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority through the Community Enrichment Program.
Sushi Rock Owner Pens Book to Benefit Kohala Cares
By Libby Leonard
In March of 2020, during Covid, Peter Pomeranze, one of Kohala’s most beloved restaurateurs, decided that while his restaurant Sushi Rock was shut down, he wanted to help those in his community who were struggling to survive.
During that time Kohala Cares was born. To this day, the weekly Wednesday food drive at the Kohala Village HUB provides up to 130 bags of food, assembled by a growing array of community volunteers, to residents in need.
“I believe food is love,” said Pomeranze, adding that starting the food drive was what made it bearable to close his restaurant of 17 years permanently.
Now Pomeranze, who has mainly run his operation from donations and some small grants, has published the book “Sushi Rock: More Than a Restaurant” as a benefit for the food drive.
Released on Bookbaby in early April, the book is a warm and celebratory reflection of his journey with the restaurant, his love and compassion for his employees (which he calls family) and the early beginnings of Kohala Cares.
It includes recipes from its eclectic menu, amongst which is his famous purple sweet potato cheesecake.
The book is $30, and all proceeds go to Kohala Cares. To purchase, visit https://store.bookbaby.com/book/sushi-rock.
For any other tax-deductible donations, visit https://de.northkohala.org/donations/donate and type in “Kohala Cares.”
Kohala High School Graduation Class of 2022 May 21, 2-4 p.m. Hisaoka Gym at Kamehameha Park
The commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 will be held at Hisaoka Gym at Kamehameha Park. All graduates must report to the gym no later than 12 noon on graduation day. This event is by invitation only.
A negative result for a Covid-19 Rapid Test and a ticket is required for each person attending (vaccinated or not). Rapid tests will be provided for free by a generous community donor. Gym opens and Covid testing begins at 11:30 a.m. and will end promptly at 1:30 p.m.
The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. sharp. No access will be allowed into the gym after 2 p.m. No exceptions. Masks are required at all times when inside the gym, since this is a Department of Education sponsored event, but may be removed briefly to take photos or for a mask break outside the gym area.
May Day at Kohala High School
By Kehaulani Hedlund
Kohala High School proudly presents the return of May Day after a short hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The program will be live streamed for anyone in the community wishing to virtually join us from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon on May 3. Please follow our social media pages for a link to view. As always, we mahalo everyone pulling together to make this performance possible for our students and our community at large.
E ala ē Nā Paniolo!
Kohala Portraits—Recognizing Neighbors: Gina Rocha, Kohala Middle School, Facing Future
Story and photo by Karolina Garrett
Hula’s artful dance first requires practice and discipline, then the graceful intuition arrives. It takes commitment and follow-through, which the hula dancers mirror for the audience—the one-for-all and all-for-one Aloha spirit.
Gina Rocha has allocated her energy as Kohala Middle School Administrative Services Assistant (SASA) these last 17 years based on hula’s axiom applied to educational admin tasks, often translating into when the-one is absent, then the-all face challenges. In this way, Hawaiian school life relies on community effort—even if the words discipline and grace are, at times, unlikely descriptors of students wobbling through middle school. Especially precipitous times, these can be the family’s first ever purchase of a deodorant canister and preparing meals at home to keep mood elevations (swings?) steady-steady for middle school youth. Calling all participants to the hula dance floor, please.
Rocha kicks off her day around 6:45 a.m., when she arrives to campus. At this early hour, Rocha and Principal Sanborn spend a few minutes identifying the priorities before them that day. They convene briefly, for soon the phone starts ringing. A teacher makes a surprise call, perhaps, needing a substitute for the day. Rocha then coordinates an Educational Assistant (EA) to be in the classroom for student support until the sub arrives. Rocha maintains her office helm until late afternoon, around 4:00 or so. Takes discipline and grace in teamwork to be “facing future” for our students.
Rocha will bring these qualities as she finesses through the early morning rush hour, noticing myriad kuleana spots that need focus. Purchase orders, payroll, supply inventory, teacher forms, staff forms, student communications, and after school activity coordination are action items for any “routine” day—and these are a brief start on a much longer list that Rocha accomplishes.
As students leave school for the day, one could miss the bus, or another could wait too long a stretch for the ride home, or a classroom may need opening to retrieve a notebook, or any unforeseen gentle calamity may appear for Rocha and her team to resolve. One teacher’s science experiment went awry, and a custodian had special “maintenance,” the message delivered via walkie talkie from the front office.
Even as official shop closes and Rocha treks home, she often carries work with her. That complicated purchase order that requires 20 minutes of undisturbed focus. Or any myriad paperwork entanglement. Recently she learned the new financial software that arrived with some, yet not adequate, training. Self-tutoring at home did the trick.
And her discipline exemplifies the classic Hawaiian motto of the “workaround,” a well-sculpted in Big Island culture where educational systems, the peoples inside them, and often scant material resources, are complex. Some long-heralded history where the spirit of ancient Hawaiians carries forward, beyond the brittle workaround. Consider the example when metal did not exist, how twine from plants tied knots, which secured building roofs and more. Materials can often be less valuable than the applied grace.
Rocha recalls learning hula at Mauna Kea resort during her middle school years. Took courage to learn a new aspect, for her, of Hawaiian culture. That lasting experience helps her today, her ongoing motivation to bring her best to work for Kohala Middle School students and their education.
Through e-mail, Principal Sanborn describes Rocha: “As the backbone of Kohala Middle School, Gina Rocha instrumentally facilitates everyday operations because she brings a wealth of knowledge, resources, and relationships as well. I can’t imagine Kohala Middle without Gina. She is well-known and well-loved in the Kohala community.”