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How to Groom a Park without Roundup - Success in Kona!

Bridgehouse Lahui at work keeping Pualani Estates pesticide-free.

Pualani Estates Park in Kona kept pesticide-free by Bridgehouse volunteers.

This is the second year of a volunteer lāhui, including myself and Bridgehouse Treatment Program, that have kept two large Kona, Big Island, parks pesticide-free. At Pualani Estates and Ali'ikai Parks, we do monthly weed eating, trimming of bushes and trees, raking, and planting lai (ti leaf) on hillsides of the parks.

Pualani Estates is a large, several-acre Park that has soccer fields and a baseball field that is well used by Happy Feet, Crush and baseball teams. The local ohana are happy to have their keiki playing in a pesticide-free park as not only do they sit on grass during games and practices but their younger children play on playground structures and in the fields too. The staff of the teams have stated the importance of a pesticide-free park on not only the health of our keiki and ohana but themselves as well.

Ali'ikai Park with new groundcovers to suppress weeds.

Ali'ikai Park with new groundcovers to suppress weeds.

Ali'ikai is a new, well-used park that serves a large population of ohana and keiki locally and from all of Kona. This park is used for na luau, birthday parties, and daily use of both the playground and play structures. The community too, have expressed their gratitude for a park that is pesticide-free.

Bridgehouse and I are glad to work together to keep our keiki healthier. We always start our work chanting an oli to the Ahupua`a. It makes us all healthier knowing we are keeping our keiki healthy; it is good therapy. Bridgehouse lāhui are proud when they drive past the park stating that it is their work that keeps our keiki safer.

Collaborating with Dennis Riordan, West Hawaii Park Maintenance Superintendent, has been a positive experience as we have established effective communication to ensure good maintenance of the parks. We have checked in with each other regularly to ensure that the upkeep is done and questions are always answered by Dennis.

There are several times a year that I have to leave for a month to do educational international workshops and the Bridgehouse lāhui continues the upkeep. It is successful.

The next phase we plan on doing is working with the parks to get up a wooden sign (with a clear covering over the writing) that states Ali'ikai Park and Pualani Estates are pesticide-free parks maintained by Bridgehouse lāhui and the local community. We will also state a date that volunteers can come for a second work day, citing specific things each park needs to do for maintenance.

For example, Ali'ikai Park has hina hina, that although it is a medicinal plant used in la'au lapa'au, it is thorny. So, on large open fields, it needs to be dug out by hand. Pualani Estates has specific places that the keiki kick the soccer balls or baseballs that we keep more barren.

Ali'ikai Park hillside

We are also ready to get a water source for the half of the hillside of Ali'ikai Park and some native shrubs and la'au lapa'au planted. We have brought black woven tarp to keep the hillside weed-free.

I am willing to be on a small Committee that can organize all the parks on the Big Island and teach good grassroots organizing that also collaborate with local park maintenance superintendents. We can do the same with roads, working within neighborhoods and also using the alternate methods mentioned in the Herbicide Reduction Bill coming up soon before our County Council.

Mahalo to all of the council members that help us protect our community, especially our keiki, and build community growth to kokua their Ahupua`a while maintaining Malama 'Aina.

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