Punalu’u is an area steeped in cultural significance, just minutes from Pacific Quest; some people even claim it may be the real site of the first Polynesian arrival to the island (most often thought to be Ka Lae, South Point). This area is the perfect backdrop in which to explore cultural and environmental issues, while having some fun in the blacksand, rolling surf and Hawaiian sun. On the short drive to Punalu’u the group spoke about the geography of the Ninole Hills which jut out in sharp juxtaposition to the otherwise rolling hillsides in Ka’u. When we arrived we met up with Dennis, the head of the parks department in Ka’u, and he told the group what they would be helping out with for the day. First, the group moved some picnic tables that had been made by local high school students into the pavilion and moved long large tables outside to the rock ocean overlook, so that community members could more easily rearrange the area themselves, for weddings and other festivities often held there.
Dennis then shared a bit about the 7 different parks he and his 3 person crew were in charge of and the large amount of work they do to maintain all these public areas. He then showed the group the petroglyph garden in the park, and to talk about the road (currently closed and covered in sand) that runs through the beach and turtle nesting area. The group then began on the second park of the project were we cleared a large area of naupaka, hou and noni plants that were encroaching on the showers and paths. Everyone worked really hard to see the completion of this major project and it much was accomplished working together with Dennis and his crew, cutting, pulling and loading all this green material that was then brought to compost site. Volunteers are very important to keeping these public areas operational and we estimated that we did work that would have taken the normal one to two person crew about 4 days.