Runnin’ with Rani: Run for the Dry Forest 2020 goes virtual

  • Runners begin the climb up the Puuwaawaa Cone Trail in this photo taken during the 2018 Run for the Dry Forest 10K trail race. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

It’s time to get your run shoes on and head on out to Puuwaawaa as this year’s Run for the Dry Forest 2020 is happening as a virtual event.

The virtual “Dash to the Top” features a 6.4-mile trail course located within the Puuwaawaa State Forest Reserve in North Kona, and held along the beautiful Puuwaawaa Cone Trail.

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“We hope to promote community education and awareness of Puuwaawaa through encouraging folks to come visit and hike the ohia/cone trails to experience this place first hand,” said Elliott Parsons, race director and Puuwaawaa coordinator for the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “We have been promoting the event through our partner social media sites and pages — Napuu Conservation Project Instagram, Puuwaawaa Forest Reserve Facebook, Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests, and Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

“The idea this year is to encourage the community to visit Puuwaawaa between Oct. 17-31, and to encourage folks to hike, hop, skip, jump, run, crawl, or however they want to make it to the top of the Puuwaawaa cone. Then, take a picture of themselves next to an event sign we have placed at the top to post to our social media IG hashtag to be considered for prizes.”

Puuwaawaa is protected and lies on the northern flank of Hualalai’s dormant volcano, extending from sea level at Kiholo Bay up to a mile in elevation near the volcano’s summit. Puuwaawaa is managed as both a state forest reserve in the upper regions and a state park near the lower coastal areas.

Literally meaning “many-furrowed hill,” the higher Puuwaawaa region features an exotic native dry land forest home to endangered bird and plant species, and its most prominent landmark — a majestic ancient volcanic cinder cone where the land derives its name. Views from the top of Puuwaawaa are incredible — boasting panoramic portraits of Maunakea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai and the Kohala mountains.

Former race director Lyman Perry, a botanist with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife who works primarily with endangered plant species, began the prestigious event in 2005 together with co-worker and friend, Dan Goltz.

“We decided to do something different this year for Run for the Dry Forest and I have been somewhat on the periphery of the planning and execution of the event,” Perry said. “This year’s event is to raise money to plant native trees in a new 80-acre fenced unit on the Puu at Puuwaawaa Forest Reserve. The event did start in 2005 and because of the pandemic we decided to hold a virtual event so we didn’t run the risk of endangering our participants.”

Parsons added that the idea to do a social-media based event evolved over time from virtual race committee discussions since July to plan the event. Due to current social distancing guidelines, the family friendly community event emphasizes small group sizes and physical distancing.

This year’s virtual event will help to raise funds to plant 1,000 native trees on the Puuwaawaa cone within an 84-acre community-led stewardship area called the Puuwaawaa Community-Based Subsistence Forest Area.

“The race committee really had to drill down to the core of what our mission was for the annual Run for the Dry Forest event in order to create this event,” Parsons said. “We decided that what was most important was the place of Puuwaawaa and encouraging the public to visit, experience, and learn about this place first hand.

“Hawaii’s tropical dry forests are threatened with less than 5% of the original forests remaining, and the more people that visit and form a connection with this place, the more people there will be to steward this special area for today and future generations. Also, because hiking to the top of the Puuwaawaa cone is really an accomplishment with amazing views of Maunakea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kohala mountains, we decided for the goal to be to reach the summit.”

The event is a partnership between the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests, the U.S. Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest, the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, and the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

While the virtual event is untimed, participants are encouraged to participate from now until October 31st, and then post on social media with the hashtag #dashtothetopPWW2020 to be considered for prizes.

Prizes for both adults and keiki will be distributed among three categories — first, second and third place, and include the highest number of likes on Instagram, the best Halloween costume (based on highest number of likes), and top committee choice (determined by race committee votes).

“This year has been a huge challenge for all,” Parsons said. “Despite the huge setbacks that Hawaii Island in-person sporting events have faced since the start of the pandemic, I think this year’s Run for the Dry Forest Race Committee really did a fantastic job creating this event and I am excited to see how it unfolds over time!”

About the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests

Parsons added the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests (AFTF) are the official sponsors of this year’s Run for the Dry Forest (RDF) 2020 Dash to the Top. AFTC hosts the website, manage the RDF t-shirt sales, and are the non-profit fiscal sponsor of the event which was previously People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH).

In addition, AFTF is an integral partner of the Puuwaawaa Community-Based Forest Subsistence Area (84 acres) on the Puuwaawaa cone, which is a three-year-old partnership between the U.S. Forest Service in Hilo, Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, AFTF, and multi-generational community leaders.

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The fundraising goal for this year’s event is $4,000, which will include paying for trees, supplies, and labor to plant the trees. As of Wednesday, 154 items (shirts, tote bags, and mugs) have been sold and $1,400 raised. Those interested can find the web links on the AFTF website (akakaforests.org.) and purchase items directly from the company to be shipped to their address of choice. The t-shirt was designed by local artist Joan Yoshioka, who designed past year’s event race shirts.

For more information about how to participate in this year’s Puuwaawaa Run for the Dry Forest 2020 Dash to the Top virtual event visit the Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests website at akakaforests.org.

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