Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Konawaena students volunteer to save native trees

KAILUA-KONA — Standing before members of the Konawaena National Honor Society and other volunteers, Michael Schloffel challenged those gathered around an ancient lama tree to contribute their efforts with purpose.

“Just think about this while you’re working today — why you’re working,” said Schloffel, a graduate of Hawaii Community College-Palamanui and trail-making apprentice to college lecturer Richard Stevens. “It helps. It gives you the drive; it gives you the motivation.”

Efforts to complete the roughly 1-mile trail have been ongoing for the past few weeks and included work by Marines, which cleared about two-thirds of the loop.

Stevens said the trail is intended to save the lama trees in the area, remnants of the original dryland forest. The trail connects the dozen remaining lama trees, which he said are possibly the oldest living flowering trees, according to preliminary information.

Saturday, Stevens said, they hoped to be able to “close the loop” by clearing away invasive fountain grass from the trees, which he said are very significant.

The lama tree, Stevens said, is a “healing tree,” and would often be used to make enclosures or houses used for treating the ill.

“When you’re under these trees and hugging them, you can really feel this quality that they have,” he said.

The tree is also sacred to Laka, goddess of hula. Stevens explained that a block of lama was often placed within a halau hula.

A relative of the ebony and persimmon, the tree is also literally a part of what makes the campus “Palamanui,” or big lama enclosure.

Following an oli, the students followed Schloffel and Stevens onto the last third of the trail and set to work closing the loop.

The student organization’s recent volunteer efforts included managing a drink station during the Ironman World Championship last month. But the volunteers hard at work Saturday said they enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to an effort that will have long-lasting meaning for the community.

“We feel very honored to be able to take part in this,” said junior Constantino Espejo.

Konawaena National Honor Society president Hannah Dumon, a senior at the high school, said the organization’s vice president helped arrange the day’s event.

“We’re just a bunch of kids that want to help the community,” she said.

Once the trail’s cleared and opened up, she said, she hopes students at the campus can walk around it and appreciate it.

Meanwhile, she said she sees the work day as an opportunity to focus on teamwork and cooperation as they work to complete the trail all while having fun.

Dumon said before Stevens and Schloffel explained their significance, she wasn’t familiar with how important the lama trees were.

“If these trees can outlive me, that’s beautiful,” she said.

“I hope that future generations can enjoy these trees.”

Espejo also said he hopes people will take the opportunity to walk the trail and use it as an opportunity to appreciate the island, especially given the trees’ significance.

Junior Ashley Oswalt agreed, noting how development is changing the island.

“With how we’re evolving on the island, I feel like we’re losing the aspect of what Hawaii is, how it was,” she said. “And this trail could be like a reminder of how it was.”


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