Earth Day at PTA

  • Keiki from St. Joseph School play a wacky game of mini golf Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Aleks Velhner, Director of Engineering at Blue Planet Research explains hydrogen energy to Connections Public Charter School student Keano Crawford Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization's Pablo Beimler, right explains the effects of wildfires to Connections Public Charter School students Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Keiki wait in line to board "The Buffalo" ordnance control vehicle Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • St. Joseph School second grader Aralyn Spear draws on the cultural resources wall Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Students partake in activities at the cultural resources station Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kaleo Frisius, left and Kainoa Tufui create petroglyphs Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Jahkotta Lewis, PTA Cultural Resources, right, explains lava tubes to Connections Public Charter School first-grade students Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area’s Earth Day. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Keiki board "The Buffalo" ordnance control vehicle Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kua O Ka La Public Charter School student Kapono Kaahie remotely controls a robot with Johannah Palm, left, and Christine Lujan watching Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area’s Earth Day. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Students remotely control a robot Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area’s Earth Day.

  • USO volunteer Marcy Brinkley watches Olga Arianoff play disc drop Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A drone mapping demonstration by Jason Dzurisin, ecological data specialist, delights visitors Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area’s Earth Day.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — “Take it to outer space,” exclaimed 7-year-old Reggie Shropshire as an unmanned aerial vehicle took to the sky Friday morning in the Saddle between Mauna Loa and Maunakea.

Using the UAV, Jason Dzurisin, an ecological data specialist with Colorado State University, showing dozens of excited keiki attending Pohakuloa Training Area’s annual Earth Day event how the U.S. Army’s Natural and Cultural Resource Program uses technology to map the area.


With the maps and multidimensional models, he explained, staff can monitor natural and cultural resources without entering an area — which could damage resources — as well as assess fires, among other tasks.

The display, which drew many “oohs” and “ahhs” from the students, was among more than a dozen “eco-stations” offering hands-on educational activities, informative briefings and live demonstrations to celebrate Earth Day. Among the stations were a virtual lava tube tour, putt-putt golf made from up-cycled materials, hydrogen power creation, endangered and threatened native plant displays and more.

“It’s fun getting to learn new things in person,” said Maka Ruiz, an eighth-grade student at Kua O Ka La Public Charter School in Kalapana after operating the Army’s Talon IV military robot, which is used in clearance operations. “And to see things I’ve never seen before.”

The annual free event is PTA’s “premiere community engagement event,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Marquez, the training area’s commanding officer.

All students from all schools, as well as the general public, were invited to the military training area for the opportunity to see how PTA cares for the multitude of resources within the 210-square-mile area, he said.

“We want to educate people on what we do take care of the resources,” he said.

According to Marquez, the Army’s contracted Natural and Cultural Resources Program has more than 40 staffers who monitor 26 threatened and endangered species and more than 1,200 cultural sites.

In addition to PTA’s stations, about a dozen local businesses and organizations — including Bike Works, Blue Planet Research, W.M. Keck Observatory and Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization — took part.

In all, about 200 students made the trek to the training area situated at 6,000 feet in elevation, including dozens of pupils from Connections Public Charter School in Hilo.


“It’s just a fun, interactive learning experience,” said Kate Wines, who brought about 50 students in first, second and fifth grade to the event for the second straight year. “And, they really like it.”

Marquez hopes more schools will take part in the event in the years to come. He encouraged school officials to reach out to Mike Donnelly, PTA community relations liaison, at 469-2411 or to find out more about next year’s event so plans can be made well ahead of time.

  1. Kaipo Wall April 22, 2018 10:23 am

    Wonderful wonderful story about all the great things that are going on up at PTA . They really do do a fantastic job of managing the aina up there . Far far better than any State agency or administration could or would do . The Fed Gov has the resources . Now that ‘sequestration’ has been done away with good developments at PTA can really take off again . Few people realize that the greatest number of PTA inhabitants/workers/ employees are science and environment types associated with Colorado State University who run the CEMML programs at PTA . The Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands does a fantastic job . The CEMML people are 100% joyfully invested with the aina of the Pohakuloa area . Endemic dryland forests are being protected and replanted , critically endangered species are being identified and propagated , saving them from total extinction . Cultural and anthropological sites are being identified and protected , in ways that would not at all occur under any other stewardship . This is great that so many keiki got to up there , experience all of that and also to be able to associate with our very finest of Americans , those that wear the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces .. Yay WHT! Good report . Mahalo !

    1. kuching April 22, 2018 8:43 pm

      This guy is good. His rendition would just about overshadow what a normal public relations firm might have written. However, if indeed “The Fed Gov has the resources!” Why isn’t the cleanup of Kaho’olawe completed yet? Or of the over-50 sites on Hawai’i island that have been used for military training? Or, how come the recent case (the Final Judgment is just about being filed) of Ching vs. Aila – 1st Circuit Court – find that the “state” hasn’t been determined enough to have regular inspections and clean up of Pohakuloa. And, can we really believe that the current impact zones – containing dangerous amounts of UXOs (unexploded ordinance) including DU (depleted uranium) – will ever be cleaned up? Heck, regarding DU – the army says it doesn’t know how many Davy Crocketts it fired at Pohakuloa and where those items are today! And will those robots be able to enter the impact zones and discover all of the Hawaiian historic sites out there that have escaped detection so far? And did the army tell all these young students how it trains military personnel at Pohakuloa to go to all corners of the world to kill innocent (and bad ones too) people? Or that foreign military will be coming soon in RimPac exercises to further desecrate our sacred lands? The activities that happen at Pohakuloa, or don’t happen when they should, is a long ways from being the “Wonderful wonderful PR story reported above.

      1. Kaipo Wall April 23, 2018 10:19 am

        Mr. Ching , I attended and these were my personal observations . Were you there ? Oh yea , outside the gates . You should have come in and looked around sir . Do you know a thing about CEMML and what they do @ PTA and around the country ? Or is your brain stuck in the courts BS and Leftist misinformation-ville ? I am sorry you hate the country you were born , and will die in, sir. It must be a very aggro condition . Have a nice day .

        1. kuching April 23, 2018 12:31 pm

          Sir, I must counter your conclusion -“Were you there?” I have been a member of the PTA Cultural Advisory Committee for over 10 years and have an intimate physical and spiritual viewpoint of the entire PTA. Additionally, I have hiked down Ke’eKe’e Trail to and over the Kona Highway to Puuanahulu, then to Luahinewai at Kiholo Bay AND from the intersection of Ke’eke’e Trail and Old Bobcat Trail to Naohuleelua (on the PTA border) and to Ahu A ‘Umi and down to the ocean at Ke’auhou. I/We have hiked the fairly recent discovered (probably within the last 10 years) curbed trail on the southwest boundary of PTA. I and my hiking group, Huaka’i I Na ‘Aina Mauna, have searched for ‘Umi’s Heiau on and all around Pu’uKe’eke’e. We have also hiked to the springs at Houpo O Kane and down the south face of Mauna Kea to the boundary of PTA. I have been in and through a number of lava tubes on the site. I have ventured around the area of Kipuka Alala (adjacent to Naohuleelua). I have intimate knowledge of the area around Pu’uKoli. I have also hiked the entire length of “Old” Saddle Road that is now “within” and “without” PTA. I have out-planted and watered a number of endangered plants and trees on different locations on PTA. So, unless you’re the genuine acclaimed expert on PTA – I would stick out my neck and challenge you to the quality and quantity of accumulated knowledge and experience on PTA. And, by the way, the Court is YOUR 1st Circuit Court (of the so-called “State” of Hawai’i) and the judge was YOUR judge. Please expound on your experiences in and around PTA.

          1. Kaipo Wall April 24, 2018 12:15 am

            VERY impressive on-the-ground mana’o sir . I defer to your vast experience in your reconnoiter of the Humuula saddle region . I am so curious however , how you as a member of the cultural advisory committee of PTA , how can you harbor such a negativist viewpoint , when surely you are clearly aware of the great work CEMML and all their team do , and have done for years . From where comes this United States hatred ? Would you prefer that a weak and independent , restored Hawaiian Kingdom end up under the direct control and influence of the likes of the Peoples Republic of China in the future? Do you think Hawaii would be left alone , should it ever be separated from the USA ? And please tell me sir , who among all living Hawaiians is , or would be qualified to lead any such restored Hawaiian Kingdom . In the old days the Ali’i nui earned their status by both bloodlines and prowess in battle . Today’s kanaka cadre have neither . Just words , emotions and grandiose fantasies . Enlighten me sir ; Whom?
            I wish I could hike with you sir , You name storied places I long to go . perhaps when you were younger ? How about now days ? Age takes it’s toll , doesn’t it ? Aloha

          2. kuching April 24, 2018 10:35 am

            About your suggestion of a so-called “negativist viewpoint” – my participation on the committee was to protect the culture, period. It needed protection, and it still does. Whether I was successful or failed, I’m sure that I wasn’t successful enough. That the army has the idiocy to claim that there aren’t ANY significant historic sites on PTA is totally ludicrous. And all your rants about all the “great work of CEMML” hasn’t corrected the negatives that have been committed against the ‘aina by over half a century of mismanagement, desecration, etc. either. I’m sorry, to hike with me, one has to be pono. It isn’t enough to only have a high degree of curiosity. And as for age – I’m doing OK. We searched for ‘Umi’s heiau at Pu’uKe’eke’e 3 years ago. This year we will search for another of ‘Umi’s heiau. At “old” HalePohaku this time. Last year we explored the area around Pu’uKanakaleonui. The year before it was Pu’uMakanaka. Age is not the impediment you suggest. It all still boils down to taking one step after the one before. The trails keep on beckoning!

          3. Kaipo Wall April 24, 2018 11:20 am

            “negativist viewpoint” – towards America , your home and native land – your rants about all the “great work of CEMML” Rants? Come on sir. Can you imagine a Pohakuloa without CEMML ? Be honest . DHHL? DLNR? hahaha Just Keep Out Kapu signs , rubbish everywhere and pau hana , we are not available after 4:PM messages . Sir you only complain and wala’ao , no real solutions . -“I’m sorry, to hike with me, one has to be pono.” You mean political correct to your anti-American points of view ? I cannot believe they still allow you any access , as you are a party to a law suit against them right now . Maybe you can still sneak in from the Bishop Estates Kamehameha Schools side ? They disallow access to anyone who is not racially Hawaiian , afterall . Who would know ? That’s ok , PTA has drones now and they will eventually spot folks sneaking around on the back edges . Good luck with that! One step after anotha . I’m a trails walker too . Aloha!

          4. Kaipo Wall April 24, 2018 12:03 pm

            Clarence , I wish to add that I do sincerely appreciate this conversation we are having here . Although we are clearly antagonistic to one another’s points of view , it is extremely interesting to me. That you have been to the places you name , some of which I also know and have visited , is fascinating to me , as most of the youth in the so-called sovereignty movement are totally clueless and have no direct experience of the true aina . It’s just a p/c term for them .You get it . I respect that . A lot . I am curious however , what if anything , occurred to you personally while involved as a cultural advisor to PTA to totally estrange you from the processes in play in all that ? How did the ideology of American hatred evolve in you ? An obviously intelligent and thoughtful individual .I know how we old men can be ; one wrong word , or one unintended moment of disrespect and THAT’S IT! It’s war! Never friends or allies again . Enemies from there on out . If that has happened to you , I am sorry. It is a grievous burden to bear . I will pray for you sir , Please take care of yourself and watch your step as you walk in these remote places . We seniors do not recover as quickly as the resilient youth .

  2. sculptorshaw April 23, 2018 9:57 am

    If they are protecting cultural resources what are they protecting them from, seems to me they are protecting them from the culture that respects them when referring to sacred landforms and created them in reference to various man-made assemblages with cultural significance. The military is disallowing the Kanaka Maoli from making the determination of what is culturally significant to them within the boundaries of PTA, they will decide that for themselves and to this date they are saying nothing has qualified for their definition of a traditional cultural property. This reminds me of the days of slavery when the slaves were not given protection because they weren’t considered human. It is disingenuous to claim to protect something you are so reluctant to admit even exists.

    1. Kaipo Wall April 23, 2018 10:28 am

      The sites , which are well identified and protected by qualified archeologists , anthropologists , and even Hawaiian ancestry cultural practitioners , advisors and PTA / CEMML workers are being protected from the false flag claimants to hereditary rights that they cannot prove and thus they have no standing in the process . Kanaka Maoli has become a loose , politically correct definition of any even slightly hapa local with a burn against and a hatred towards their own country and the military which protects us all . Lose the ulterior motives and activist intentions and approaches and you will probably find the actual ground controlling authorities much more willing to hear you out and work with you . As it is , all they see and hear is sassy unsubstantiated shibai and radicalism . That approach will never get you where you want to go . Show some respect , humility and gratefulness .

  3. Bill Jefferson April 23, 2018 1:24 pm

    “We want to educate people on what we do take care of the resources,”

    Wow, and here I was believing all these years that the Army’s job is to kill the enemy and break his stuff into tiny bits until we get an unconditional surrender.

    With this attitude, could this guy help win World War II? Could the entire Army?

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