HONAUNAU — Like many who saw the reports of overflowing trash bins and desecration at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park and the surrounding area, Hala Medeiros said she was upset by the news.
“It made me feel sad about the situation,” said Medeiros, who lives in Hookena and whose husband is a fisherman at Honaunau Bay. “For us it just relates to family and our values and we love the place. It’s a part of us and it was time for us to come down and just support and be a part.”
It’s a reaction that was shared by many of the more than six dozen volunteers who came out Saturday for a cleanup of the both the park and neighborhood around it, making them the most recent group of community members who have rallied to steward the site since the consequences of the ongoing partial government shutdown hit headlines last week.
Kaimikila Moraes, who came to Saturday’s event from Volcano, said he was really proud of the community given the turnout, saying it shows people care.
“Especially in the strange times we live in now it seems like not a lot of people care about things — all kinds of things let alone the environment,” he said. “But it’s good to see that people do. People that live here do; we appreciate what we have, so we take care.”
Saturday’s effort was coordinated by Blue Zones Project, which, said community engagement lead Kirstin Kahaloa, promotes the relationship between healthy land and healthy people and offering residents opportunities to give back to their community.
“I think it’s been a wide awakening, and I think people are passionate because they probably haven’t stewarded this area before because the National Park does do such a great job to care for this space,” said Kahaloa, adding that cleanup efforts are normally held at county and state beaches and facilities rather than National Parks. “But what it’s taught me is our community really cares about our natural resources, enough to just kind of shift their whole schedules to make this a priority.”
Even before news reports were published detailing conditions at the park, Kahaloa said, small groups have been coming to clean the park on their own.
“And so the park, I’ve been told, is fairly clean and well-maintained now,” she said.
Given that so many of those groups focused on the park itself, volunteers on Saturday expanded their effort to beyond the park’s boundaries, sprucing up areas around the park that have been impacted by an influx of visitors.
“Because they did that, then we had the opportunity to circle around and basically give the park a big hug and clean up the neighborhood” she said. “And with the park closed, there’s more impact to Two Step and the surrounding area, so even moreso the surrounding neighborhood needs to be looked upon.”
Park administration meanwhile announced Saturday that the park is resuming “basic visitor services” to include reopening visitor center restrooms and providing trash collection at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
The National Park Service said the decision was made using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to immediately bring back maintenance crews to clean restrooms and take away trash.
While outdoor areas will continue to be accessible, the statement said, the parking area and most facilities will remain closed.
Other services such as visitors centers, ranger talks and programs may also be limited or unavailable while the partial shutdown continues.
Visitors to the park can visit www.nps.gov/puho to get the latest information on accessibility at the park and www.doi.gov/shutdown for updates on the shutdown.