Mālama I Ka Honua | April-June 2017 | By Gary Gill, Oʻahu Group Adviser
On a crisp Sunday morning, a dozen Sierra Club outings leaders woke early to assess the outings potential of Pālehua in the southern Wai‘anae Mountains. They found new trails to blaze, sandalwood groves to protect, pig fences to improve, and a vast canvas of highlands to restore to native forest.
Above the Makakilo community overlooking the Ewa and Central Plains of O‘ahu, Pālehua provides a close-to-home opportunity for conservation volunteers to make a measurable, positive impact. Only a half-hour drive from downtown, Club members can experience doing conservation work in the habitat of the endangered ʻelepaio bird. And a short hike along the Pālikea trail leads to rare Hawaiian tree snails and happy face spiders.
Already, veteran Sierra Club leaders have begun to transform the degraded lands into a center for native plant propagation. Suzan Harada, a Club service trip veteran who started back in the 1970s, has set the pace by spearheading the construction of an enclosure to protect a grove of ‘iliahi (native sandalwood) from grazing animals. Under Suz’s leadership, High School Hikers have planted hundreds of native plants with a survival rate better than 90%.
Building new hiking trails on the mountain will not only enhance recreational opportunities and help train a new generation of leaders, but the pathways will help to protect the forest from wildfires.
The Pālehua property is owned by the family of the late Lorin Gill, a founding member of the Hawai‘i Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Gill family mission is to protect the conservation, agricultural, and historic resources of the mountain forever. The Sierra Club Outings Committee has scheduled service projects at Pālehua on April 15 and 16th, May 20th, and June 24th. See sierraclubhawaii.org/events for more details.