Hui o Ko’olaupoko (HOK) has had the privilege of managing native plants and community volunteers at The He`eia Estuary Restoration Project at He`eia State Park since early 2015. The goal of the project is to improve water quality and fish habitat in He`eia Stream Estuary, O`ahu, Hawai`i. HOK has worked systematically to remove invasive mangrove and other non-native vegetation from seven acres of riparian and estuarine areas along ±1,440 linear feet of He`eia Stream and the land. These efforts have improved stream functionality, restored estuarine habitat for native aquatic species through improved fish passage, opened foraging areas for shore and marsh birds, and removed invasive plant species to allow for the reintroduction of native plants.
To date, HOK has cleared mature invasive mangrove from over seven acres and replanted nearly 5,000 individual native plants (30+ species). Through seven years of removal and native out-planting efforts, we have documented not only positive effects on water quality and fish populations, but also soil health and an increase in native wetland bird presence. In this time, HOK has hosted over 5,000 volunteers to the project site to learn about and lend a hand to the efforts.
As a small non-profit, HOK does not own or lease any land; instead we work with willing landowners to implement projects, solicit funding, and facilitate community participation. Through this model we work to restore an area to the best of our abilities during the grant phase and equip the landowner or subsequent caretaker for successful long-term management.
With this model in mind, our time as caretakers of the estuary at He`eia State Park is coming to a close. Our last workday on site will be Thursday September 1, 2022. The Department of State Parks (DSP) will transition management of the restoration area to the He`eia National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). “The He`eia NERR and it’s collaborative partners are looking forward to taking over the restoration of the muliwai (stream mouth corridor). We are deeply committed to pono stewardship of this place, and we know how to carry this kuleana. It will be an honor to do so” says Kawika Winter, He`eia NERR Reserve Manager. Over the next two moths, HOK looks forward to collaborating with DSP, NERR, and community members to host additional out-planting and invasive species removal days, and to ensure continuity in maintenance practices at the site.
Our time working at He`eia Estuary has been one that we will hold fondly in our hearts. Over the past seven years we have build a relationship with with not only the plants and animals on site but also the cyclical and seasonal changes. We know the hala trees that sprouted with the new sunlight after mangrove were removed. We met the `alae `ula family that nested, raised three chicks, and inspected our work each day. We know the shamma thrush that greets us each morning with a lovely song, and the ae`o that fly overhead on their way to graze on the mudflats. We watched as months of work were swallowed by king tides and a flooding stream, but learned of the water's preferred course. We have be taught great lessons through these relationships and observations. We will carry these lessons for a lifetime. A hui hou He`eia.
The mission of Hui o Ko`olaupoko is to protect ocean health by restoring the `aina: mauka to makai. This is done in partnership with stakeholders including interested citizens, non-governmental organizations, government, educational institutions and businesses while using and focusing on sound ecological principles, community input, and cultural heritage.