Maka’eo Path: Walking in a Xeriscape Garden

  • Janie Cook adopted a garden space at the Maka’eo Path adding beauty to the site while offering therapy for herself. (Courtesy photo/Sheila Colon)

The Maka’eo Walking /Jogging Path has a long history in Kona that continues to unfold. It serves as a paved one-mile long curving roadway for folks to walk or jog. It is surrounded by lots of drought tolerant plants, art objects, small anchialine ponds

as well as other interesting features.

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The history of the Path dates back to 1970 when then Governor Burns dedicated the former Kona Airport as a State Park. The site along the shoreline just north of Kailua-Kona was intended as a multi-use area for the community.

More than twenty years later, community members collaborated with the State to develop the walking and jogging path on the mauka side of the old airport runway. The Kona Farm Bureau started planting the north end of the Path and the Kona Outdoor Circle help finalize the installation of the trees and grass in that section. They also installed irrigation to the area to insure the plants’ survival.

In 1998, Friends for Fitness organized to help promote healthy lifestyles in our community. Their initial support came from the Tobacco Coalition. Heidi Stromberg was the first FFF Administrator.

Heidi felt, “The Friends goal was to create an attractive place for community members to get out and exercise. We wanted to help folks stay healthy.”

The organization soon became stewards of the Path and encouraged their members to adopt sections of the landscape to help replace the existing fountain grass with ornamental plants. Community and business organizations along with the State and County also helped move the project forward.

The Friends proceeded to put in a stretching post and balance beam, as well as a drinking fountain, mile markers and a covered exercise station. They added interest and beauty to the Path by installing and maintaining planted areas along the roadway. Some help from the State and the County aided the effort.

The Friends also wanted to name the Path and chose the name of the nearby point named Maka’eo. The name loosely translates to English as “point of the piercing eye”.

As part of the Kona Rotary Club’s Centennial Project in 2005, the Club provided labor and funds to develop the area further. Their work is visible today in the lawn opposite the Path’s main entrance as well as in the blue Rotary resting bench on the north end of the grassy area.

For nearly 20 years, Betty DeRoy has worked with Friends for Fitness to oversee the maintenance of the landscape at the Path. Betty is also captain of the Thursday “free lancers” who meet at the garden weekly around 8 a.m. for a few hours to learn ways to maintain the garden and set about doing it. Mask wearing and social distancing are practiced at these gardening sessions.

She reports, “Maintaining the Path has been a challenge but with volunteer help we’ve managed to keep most of the plants alive and beautiful.”

When Betty became the Park Coordinator, she started an Adopt-a-Park Program. She continues to find groups, businesses as well as individuals who are interested in adopting sections of the landscape. Adoptees often use a variety of plants and gardening styles adding interest to the scenery for walkers and joggers. .

Janie Cook is one of the individuals who has adopted a garden space along the Path. She wanted to work at the Path as a way to get outside and do some gardening. For her, gardening has been good therapy. She has added many plants to her area and continues to be a dedicated adoptee. She can usually be found working at the Path on Fridays, which is her day off from her job.

Local landscape architect, Kaz Shigizawa is now retired but is filling his time with several projects. One is his role as Park Coordinator at Maka’eo. He has been instrumental in revamping the south section of the Path by upgrading the former Japanese and Lauhala garden as well as the succulent section into an attractive whole. He’s looking forward to getting more help as upgrading continues.

Kaz says, “I feel working at the Path is a wonderful opportunity to go outside and get some exercise during this pandemic. I hope people realize that volunteering definitely includes lots of on-the-job learning experiences.”

Plantings along the Path vary widely from grass and ground covers to large trees. Lots of drought tolerant plants and shrubs are also included in the landscape. The plantings are good examples of what can be grown along the dry shoreline in Kona.

Touring the Path, you can get good ideas for xeriscape gardening. Trees like plumeria add fragrance to the area. An Australian flame tree bursts with bright red flowers every spring and many bromeliads offer color and occasional flowers. Succulents and cactus also grow well in the mostly dry area. Of course, bougainvillea grows well here and adds vibrant colors to the landscape.

Plants and artwork are often donated and volunteer efforts to place, plant and weed are important to maintaining the landscape around the Path. Additions like the walk-in Thai pavilion house, several small sculptures and some resting benches also add interest to the Path’s landscape.

Currently Kaz, in his role as the Park Coordinator, works with Betty seeking volunteers. They are hoping to add to their Thursday morning cadre and find a few more adoptees. You can contact Betty to find out more about the opportunities available at befaloha@msn.com or 329-5519.

Maka’eo Path offers a wonderful opportunity for those with health challenges to get much needed exercise. Many credit their use of the Path or their work there as helpful for losing weight, controlling blood pressure and generally helping with physical mobility.

Today many mature shade trees and xeriscape plants are visible along the walkway. Almost year round, some section of the garden is producing blossoms and color to delight walkers and runners who frequent the Path.

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Go check out the Maka’eo Walking/Jogging Path. It is lovely early in the morning, partly shaded mid-day and enjoyable in the evening just before sunset. Enjoy its beauty, get some exercise and consider helping maintain the interesting landscape in the area. You will not regret it.

Diana Duff is a plant adviser, educator and consultant living part time in Kailua-Kona.

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