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Ocean guardians express gratitude to the aina through service

By Staff | May 16, 2019

On Earth Day, the ocean guardians of West Maui gathered for a sacred sunrise ceremony. The ceremony was one of service to the beloved aina. Many would come. All would share one thing in common: we all love this pristine stretch of coastline around Honolua Bay.

We gathered at the old bridge in the back of Honolua Valley. There would eventually be over 50 of us scouring Lipoa Point to Honokohau on our shared mission: to clean the land.

Ashley from Down the Hatch was the first to arrive. She came with fresh banana bread and a double cayenne pepper elixir to energize our trash treasure hunters.

I arrived next representing Surfrider Foundation, bringing reusable gloves, reusable bags, tarps and a teenager named Yijie for extra muscle.

Napili legend Les Potts had gathered his troops at the top of the ridge at the baseyard.

Almost no one has done more for longer for Honolua Bay than Les Potts. Les has been caretaker of the Bay since the 1970s. He’s been there for every chapter in Honolua’s story over the last 50 years. He organizes and leads cleanups, and physically moves more garbage than most anyone. For years and years, Les has been cleaning and removing unimaginable mounds of other people’s trash. Be sure to tip your hat to Les if you see him around town.

Today, Les was on a mission. He was determined to remove a mountain of metal. You see, people dump immense amounts of garbage at Lipoa Point, because they want to avoid County Disposal Fees and the inconvenience of lugging heavy metal around the West Maui Mountains.

Properly disposing of metal is burly, dirty, unglamorous work. Moving, consolidating and hoisting heavy metal is hard. But thanks to Les and the crew, the job was done, as it has been for so long. In the end, they removed over 3.79 tons, or 7,500 pounds, of metal detritus.

To finish the job, Down the Hatch and Save Honolua Coalition, a private business and a nonprofit, pitched in together to pay over $1,000 for the container to move all of the metal to Central Maui. Thanks to these community members for stepping up to pay to get the metal off of Lipoa Point!

For miles along the raw, wind-lashed coastline, the foragers discovered all kinds of garbage treasure. Some pulled the trash out from the steel frames of abandoned cars. Others wandered the river valley to the ocean, picking up microplastics, mega-plastics and fishing line.

I drove my pickup truck to the north with Yijie, where I knew we would find trash. Beyond Honolua, the coastline tilts to the northeast. Here the beaches are directly exposed to the prevailing northeast trade winds and ocean currents. The global marine debris washes up much more on this coast than on the West Side.

We rambled down into the campgrounds at Windmills, where we found toilet paper, food trash and plastics. We clambered on wave-lashed boulders, where we found demolished boats, deep sea fishing nets and driftwood. We crawled into boulders and nooks, where we found utterly forgotten, ancient garbage. We stuffed our burlap sacks with filth.

We pushed further on the country road to a special, sacred place. Here we cleaned with reverence, gratitude and care for this natural cathedral. Yijie grew animated as he picked up pipes, metal and heavy plastic. I climbed out so far on the point that I discovered some former beach camper’s trash pile buried in the sand. The goldmine! I filled my bag to the brim, and we loaded my truck with truly horrendous filth.

Back at the Honolua Bridge, West Side Ocean Guardian Zane Schweitzer rocked up with a truck and a smile, ready to get his hands dirty. He took charge at the sorting station, pulling out glass and aluminum for recycling. The Schweitzer Clan showed up the year before, too, keeping their family tradition of service and community engagement strong.

But the war continues. I’ve been cleaning beaches for a decade now, and the trash keeps coming. We continue to be humans. There are more and more of us sharing the planet. We have not evolved our ability to manage our waste as quickly as we have evolved our capacity to produce it.

The ocean guardians closed down our morning ritual. On this Earth Day, we had each expressed our gratitude to the aina through service.

Mahalo to the 50 people who stepped up to give Honolua her Spring Cleaning. To the other 160,000 people living on Maui, I hope you found a way to give back to Maui on this day. We can all be stewards of our island, each in our own way.