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Successful Trials of Herbicide Alternatives in Hawaii in the 1990's

Carol Burgess (neé Carol Merrill of “Let’s Make A Deal” TV-show fame) moved to Hawaii in the late 1980’s and quickly became an environmental activist. She founded Hawaii’s Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and successfully spearheaded herbicide-free parks and roadside trials on the island.

Burgess’ experiences are documented in the 1994 video “Herbicide-Free Parks & Roads,” showing that there are safer and more aesthetic alternatives to spraying island parks and roads with herbicides... see

In “Herbicide-Free Parks,” Burgess interviews county officials and maintenance workers on how they met their objectives to create safe recreation areas, reduce toxic chemicals in the environment, provide scenic beauty and control soil erosion, all while staying within maintenance means.

Many benefits were achieved by eliminating herbicides from the five Keaukaha oceanfront parks in Hilo, said Burgess. These parks continue to be maintained without herbicides to this day, offering children the opportunity to run barefoot on the grass without their parents worrying that they’re absorbing chemicals. The ponds are clearer now that there’s no erosion from herbicided banks. There are no more brown, denuded areas around the trees, so there’s more space, and you can sit in beautiful green grass with your back up against a tree.

“In the beginning, more work had to be done,” conceded Burgess. “But no more county employees had to be hired. Community volunteers assisted the staff with special projects.”

George Yoshida, then Director of Parks & Recreation, said “Maintaining the parks without herbicides takes more manpower, but herbicide-free parks have proved to be affordable, especially considering the money saved on purchasing and applying herbicides.”

The video offers suggestions on how parks throughout the county and state can be maintained in a similar manner. Some of the viable alternatives found were weed whacking and planting or encouraging already existing low-growing ground covers.

By just mowing or cutting weeds instead of poisoning them, a profusion of plant species replaced the one type of grass that grew when herbicides were regularly applied. According to Kahuna La’au Lapa’au Papa Henry Auwae and his assistant, Kana Isaacs, many of these “weeds” were plants that could be used for healing purposes.

Papa Henry Auwae appeared in the video holding a bunch of Hina Hina which he said he used to treat heart conditions, cancer and diabetes. It could become unavailable because of herbicide spraying. “This medicine is very important to the health of each individual who lives in Hawaii,” implored Papa Henry. “If our parks are not up to par and clean and away from pesticides, then we’re in a hell of a big problem…. I feel it’s important to keep our parks clean of any kind of chemicals that can hurt our young people in Hawaii.”

As more and more questions have arisen in recent years about the safety of RoundUp, these videos share important information to consider. Now living in Australia, Burgess is happy to hear that the herbicide-free parks continue to be maintained that way, but urges citizens to ask for greener, safer parks and roads across the island. “There’s no better time than now, when the county is short-staffed,” she has heard, “for citizens to get together and volunteer their efforts to improve the environment for themselves and their children.

“Weed killers not only destroy weeds,” explains Burgess, “marring the beauty of parks and roadsides, but they are cumulative and contribute to the ill health of all Earth's inhabitants... people and animals as well. We need to make every effort to eliminate them as fast as we can."

HCAP has evolved into the new organization, GREENER HAWAII, starting with new trial parks around the island of Hawaii.

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