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A Turn For the Better For A Maui Beach Park

Surfrider-Maui, HI Chapter activists had been bummed for years by seeing polluted runoff from beach parks stream into the ocean. Showers at the parks flow untreated to the ocean. Parking lots can do the same, carrying with it car exhaust, oil, and more. That runoff could be a source of irrigation for plants, especially ones that are native to the island, instead of the turf grass that is common at the parks.

The Chapter wanted to fix a high profile beach park, following the principles of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden Program. They picked Pohaku Beach Park, aka “S-Turns,” which is located near two hotels and lots of condos. It gets a constant flow of traffic from surfers as well as tourists checking out turtles that like to lie on the nearby beach. It has the problem with runoff from showers (pictured below) and parking lots (pictured above). Last winter, it rained for 6 months (it's outside of the “Lahaina dry bubble”).

With a looming project completion deadline, and not knowing how many volunteers would show up, the decision was made to bring in a mini-excavator to help prep the site. Kimo at Truth Excavation, a former Maui Surfrider Executive Committee member, provided an employee (Isi) to operate the excavator.

Scott Lacasse, owner of One If By Land Environmental Design LLC and a Garden Resource Teacher at Montessori School of Maui, designed the gardens. (At the School, Scott does innovative things like guide the kids through age-appropriate data collection for the garden and compost as well as grant-funded research into Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs) - like the soil foodweb promoted by OFG). The south side shower-fed OFG is about 286 sq. ft (pictured above, left), while the north side parking lot-fed garden is 340 sq. ft (pictured above, right). The 10,432 sq. ft. site, when draining to these OFGs, will absorb pollutants in each “first flush” of rain. The design is straightforward, efficient and beautiful: slowing down, spreading out and sinking water into planted swales so it can be filtered and absorbed by soil, plants and mulch (click here to see all the design documents and calculations in the garden's online OFG map “report”).

On a Saturday morning, 40 volunteers gathered at the Park to do the installation, which went from 8:30am-3pm.  Activists from Surfrider were joined by experienced volunteers with sister non-profits, West Maui Kumuwai and Malama Maui Nui (Surfrider Maui collaborates with MMN on beach clean ups). Chapter Vice-Chairperson, Tim Lara, let everyone know about Surfrider’s mission.  Then OFG Program Chair, Josh Hamlin (pictured at right) informed people that urban runoff is the #1 source of ocean pollution, and how OFG applies CPR: Conservation, Permeability and Retention to revive watersheds and oceans.

Scott led the community workday – what Surfrider calls a Garden Assistance Party (GAP). When they split up to do the work, Josh led a crew in the north area and activist Charlie Quesnel led one in the south (shower) area, with Scott bouncing back and forth between the two areas to supervise. Scott used chalk to draw out where to dig and create small berms. Compost was laid down, then plants installed. One volunteer, a high school student, was particularly knowledgeable about native plants. After the mulch was applied, drip irrigation was installed just to help get plants established. It will be removed after that time period. Educational signage will be designed, paid for and installed by the Chapter.

Check out these before-and-after pictures! The total budget was $17,250. Funding came from a grant through the Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources via their cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program. Special thanks goes to Tova Callander West Maui Kumuwai for bringing the idea for the project to the Chapter, for helping to write the grant and sharing her considerable knowledge about working with the County (which turned out to the be the longest part of the project).

In addition to installation, Surfrider Maui is also responsible for maintaining the Ocean Friendly Garden.  The Chapter will rely on active members who live in the area, as well as the surrounding community and local surfers, to help keep the plants watered and the garden healthy.

On the topic of maintenance, activists needed to go back and redo part of the garden due to some major drainage problems (at right). Employees at Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Maui Kayak Adventures went back with Josh to make the changes: move part of the garden and fix irrigation issues. Hawaiian Paddle Sports has a “giving back” program in which they both make a donation to a non profit each month and look to do a service project with them. A big mahalo to them!

Special thanks to those who provided and delivered the garden building materials:

  • Plants – from Hoolawa Farms, a native plant nursery.  All the plants are native to Hawaii (see the list in this garden's OFG map “report”).
  • Rock – from Ameron HI, and Riedel Construction­ picked it up and delivered it.
  • Compost and mulch – from EKO Compost.

Food came from LuLu's Restaurant in Lahaina, who graciously donated lunch for 40 people! (Lulu’s has provides food for Chapter beach clean ups.) The Chapter gets a good turnout with food! Starbucks stores on the Westside of the island donated coffee.