I grew up on Kāne‘ohe Bay. My brothers, cousins and the other neighborhood kids used to play at Kāne‘ohe Beach Park at the end of Waikālua Road. The name of the beach there is Nāoneala‘a, which translates to, “the sands of La‘a”. It got that name because the chief La‘a-mai-kahiki hauled several hundred canoes worth of black cinders from the extinct volcano at nearby Mōkapu to create a suitable beach to berth his canoes. To my knowledge, this is the only black sand beach on O‘ahu.
It is also a great example of the changes that are taking place in Kāne‘ohe today.
Coastal erosion is sweeping away that black sand and invasive algae and mangrove have overtaken the fishpond on the far side of the beach. Pollution and overuse have degraded the rich near shore fishing grounds – the crab, 'ōpae, and clams that my father and uncles took us to gather as children are nearly gone. The Nāoneala’a of today hardly resembles the place of my youth, and is vastly different from the rich fishery that existed when La‘amaikahiki decided to make his home there.
This area is also an example of how communities can come together to preserve and restore the rich natural resources of our district.
Through the hard work of the Waikālua Loko Fishpond Preservation Society, Waikālua Fishpond is not only being restored, but is being utilized as a resource for community-based education and environmental awareness. Monthly workdays bring in volunteers from around the community to remove invasive gorilla ogo and mangrove, which have choked the life from this once-thriving example of ancient Hawaiian aquaculture. In addition, schools from all levels within the district come here to get an up-close history lesson of the place in which they live.
Our communities are leading the way in advancing these types of community-based stewardship initiatives. Just a few of many great examples include:
When it comes to conservation and environmental sustainability, we need to support the good work already taking place in our communities. I want to streamline the state regulatory processes these initiatives are subject to, to encourage their growth by increasing funding, and to provide infrastructure to promote cross-project collaboration. Rather than entangling these efforts by forcing the community-based organizations to navigate the state bureaucracy, the state needs to help our communities do what we know is best for our ‘āina and for the people who live here.