Thursday | August 24, 2017
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Giving a little TLC

Kahaluu Beach Park got some tender loving care Saturday morning as Big Islanders and visitors alike worked to fix damage and clean up debris left in the wake of recent warning-level surf.

The high surf episodes, which began Dec. 20 and continued into the New Year with waves that were forecast between 20 and 25 feet, inundated areas of the 4-acre Hawaii County beach park located off Alii Drive in Keauhou, resulting in damage to rock walls and Waikua‘a‘ala pond, as well as leaving debris strewn across the property visited by 400,000 people annually, according to county estimates.

Rocks, some of which were larger than a basketball, plant debris and coral fragments pushed some 50 feet inland by the surf were among the items picked up by more than a dozen volunteers who participated in the cleanup at Kahaluu. The volunteers also picked up a good amount of garbage, which included broken glass, cigarette butts and plastic items, among other items.

The cleanup was organized by the Kahaluu Bay Education Center, which falls under the auspices of The Kohala Center, said Cindi Punihaole, program director at the Kahaluu Bay Education Center. The nonprofit center works to nurture meaningful outdoor experiences for residents and visitors while protecting the area’s natural and cultural resources. It also partnered with the county to put in place a 10-year master plan to restore and protect the bay.

“It’s our kuleana (responsibility) while we’re here to malama (care for) our aina (land) and our beloved Kahaluu,” Punihaole said about why people should take part in such volunteer efforts at Kahaluu. “We have to leave something for our children and grandchildren.”

Avery Williams, a 17-year-old Parker School student who recently moved to Kailua-Kona from Texas, said her mission for the cleanup was to rid the Kahaluu shoreline of as much plastic and garbage as possible to protect the array of sea life there, including turtles, which she said can mistake plastic bags for jelly fish.

“We need these animals, and I’m trying to help with that,” she said while pulling glass from the sand.

Tess Cayou, an Edmonds, Wash., native who has visited Kona annually for “at least the past decade,” said it was her “special affinity” for the ocean and shoreline that brought her to the park for the cleanup. Like Punihaole, she also wanted to ensure Kahaluu is around for the next generation to enjoy.

“I want to be able to pass it on to the next generation,” said Cayou, who recently became a volunteer with the education center’s ReefTeach program, which teaches users how to avoid damage to and care for the reef. “If we don’t care now, we won’t be able to.”

For more information and to contribute to the education center’s effort, including the master plan to restore Kahaluu, visit, call 640-1166 or email

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