‘Time to give back’
Volunteers work to restore anchialine pools
KALAOA — The first time Dena Sedar came down to the anchialine pools at Ka‘elehuluhulu Beach in Kekaha Kai State Park, they were in poor shape. “It was low tide and so there was algae everywhere,” she said Saturday, “and the pools just looked so sad that I was like ‘What is this and why haven’t we done anything about it?’” That experience inspired Sedar, an interpretive specialist with Hawaii State Parks, to take on the task of restoring the pools to how they looked before the introduction of nonnative species and a 2011 tsunami that dumped sand and sediment into the pools. “And then I just really fell in love with anchialine pools once I started doing more research into them,” she said.
Anchialine pools are often home to opae ula, tiny red shrimp that can feed off algae in the pools, keeping their growth in check. But non-native fish, such as the guppies currently making their home in the pools here, pose a risk to the shrimp and heavy deposits of sand and sediment can block the narrow passageways the shrimp use to move between pools.
Sedar’s goal, she told a group of volunteers who came out Saturday morning for a day of restoring the pools and cleaning up the beach, was to restore the pools to a point where the opae ula could make a return.
Last week, the Department of Land and Natural Resources announced that the Division of State Parks received a $10,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority Natural Resources Program, administered by the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Sedar, who wrote the
grant request, said the award signaled support for restoration work at the anchialine pools.
“Sometimes with the state, other priorities come up,” she said. “But because we had the grant, this project was a priority. So it was nice to have the support of HTA and then to know it was dedicated to this specific project.”
For some in attendance, the restoration work was a chance to learn about something new.
“I think I’ve walked past here a number of times and not really known,” said Sam Chagani, an account manager with FindLaw who was volunteering. “You just think ‘Yeah this is just rainwater that’s collecting; it’s just a swamp.”
Now though, he said, he considers the pools “an amazing geographical feature.” And, he added, people have a responsibility to restore and take care of them.
“I think we forget that a lot of this was changed by man, by our activities with invasive species,” Chagani said. “So it’s time to give back.”
Jesse Smalling, 40 of KailuaKona, was shoveling sand into buckets to be hauled off away from the pools as he spoke about his efforts to get the pools into good condition again.
Smalling, the owner and operator of slackline company SlackHi, helped organize the day’s event and said his involvement comes from his love of Kua Bay, where there’s also an anchialine pool.
“I used to go back and look at the one there and realized that nobody was really taking care of it,” he said. “I went to State Parks and asked what I could do to help out and they said ‘Hey, we’re already doing something, jump on board.”
He promoted the event through a Facebook group he’s trying to cultivate, “Conscious Community,” which people can join to support each other in efforts to restore anchialine pools, clean up beaches, “anything like that,” he said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done and there’s not enough people doing it,” he said. “It’s about making changes one day at a time, you know? People come down here and don’t really realize what it takes to keep it nice.”
Meanwhile, yoga teacher Alyssa Kratz was helping to move those buckets of sand away from the pool and closer to the shore where they could be emptied.
Kratz, who led yoga for the volunteers right before the restoration work began, said the information shared about the state of the pools is information everyone should have.
“I feel like when we know more about our place or we know more about the ecosystems that support us where we live, we’ll have greater respect for it and maybe take better care,” she said.
Overall, she said, the day’s job had been very educational for her, she said.
“I really didn’t know what I was getting into coming out here other than that I was going to teach yoga,” she said. “And now I’ve learned about this little ecosystem and learning about it, we care about it more.”
Sedar said restoration work will continue on future work days with the next one slated for either the end of August or September.
Sam Chagani dumps sand that’s been removed from an anchialine pool near Ka‘elehuluhulu Beach in Kekaha Kai State Park Saturday.