By: Vanessa Distajo
The Mānoa Branch of The Outdoor Circle has had an incredibly active year of volunteering. In the midst of beautifying, educating and advocating, we have deepened our partnerships with the City & County of Honolulu, other non-profits, schools, businesses, and State agencies.
Our key stone project this year has been the restoration of Kamānele Park. With the approval of the Department of Parks & Recreation Director Michele Nekota and Clint Jamile of the City’s Adopt-a-Park program, we organized thirteen clean up days to remove over three and a half tons of invasive vegetation that had been covering over the cultural site for decades. Working closely with the archaeologists from OASES, we were able to have the site officially mapped. It was determined that the site was used by Native Hawaiians for ceremonial, agricultural and habitation purposes, and does indeed feature the remains of a heiau. We will continue to maintain the area as we develop a historic preservation plan with OASES, Mālama Mānoa, and other community stakeholders.
The playground aspect of our Kamānele Park Project has been coming along as well. A design concept was developed by a team of local educators to reflect the history and legends of Mānoa Valley. We also formulated a list of interdisciplinary connections, and shared them with Dr. Edna Hussey, Principal of Mid Pacific Institute, because the lower school campus she supervises is adjacent to Kamānele Park. The Mid Pacific first and second grade students used Kamānele Park as an Inquiry Project. We were pleased to attend their celebration, and donated books to their classrooms to commemorate the culmination of their work. Furthermore, we formed a relationship with Punahou School, facilitating service learning classes for the Academy G-Term and the Hawaiian Culture II class.
Last November, we shared the Kamānele Park Project Proposal with the Mayor’s Commission of Culture and the Arts. The eleven commissioners unanimously voted in support of our project. Also, we received strong support along the way from City Council Member Ann Kobayashi, who donated snacks for our volunteers, and championed funding for the new playground to help us with our fundraising efforts. Thankfully, the Executive Budget Bill 16 passed, allocating $150,000 for the engineering site work for the new playground. Council Member Trevor Ozawa, Chair of the Budget Committee, loved the project too, and worked hard to find more money in the City’s budget to increase the amount to our estimated total of $216,000. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s contributions to this massive community improvement project.
In addition, it is important to briefly mention a few of our other projects which received media coverage. We negotiated with Alexander & Baldwin to save the seventeen mature monkey pod trees at Mānoa Marketplace; we organized the 1,000 Tree Give Away with Mālama Mānoa; we advocated for the residents of UH Faculty housing as they had valid environmental concerns about DLNR’s Mānoa Stream Dredging Project; and we submitted testimony to elected officials about the issue of monster houses. Our year has been hectic and overwhelming at times with all the multitasking, but it has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling to make such positive impacts in the community that we love.
The Greenleaf is the online newsletter and blog of The Outdoor Circle. Here you will find updates on the projects and accomplishments of our many branches throughout the state, as well as programs with statewide impact.