Kōkeʻe Area Restoration and Reforestation Project & Meeting the Nā Māhoe ʻOhana

Written by: Baylee Jackson

koa trees

Author Baylee Jackson, USFS Scientist Cindy McArthur and Hōkūleʻa crewmember Hye Jung with all the koa trees to be planted. Photo: Ambyr U. Mokiao-Lee.

It was about a year and a half ago while sitting in the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife office in Honolulu that I first got in touch with Ambyr U. Mokiao-Lee, the Outreach and Education Specialist on Kauaʻi. We were on a phone call to talk about various tree planting efforts in the state of Hawaiʻi to support the Propagate Peace Project, which is a Mālama Honua project to have the planting of one million trees dedicated in celebration of the Worldwide Voyage*. That day, we got a description of the Kōkeʻe reforestation project, and said that we would keep in touch, so we would know as the time came closer to planting when they would need volunteers. There were numerous phases and efforts that had to be completed prior to the outplanting phase of the project, and we would be standing by.

Fast forward to this month – I had the opportunity to travel to Kauaʻi with my former teacher Hye Jung Kim, and United States Forest Service scientist Cindy McArthur. We arrived at Kōkeʻe at 8:30 am and met up Ambyr U. Mokiao-Lee and other volunteers. After a briefing of the goal for the day, we headed in towards the section of Kōkeʻe where we would be outplanting. Kōkeʻe State Park lost an estimated 15,000 tons of trees in a series of three back to back fires during the Summer of 2012. Efforts are currently being made to restore the forest by planting koa trees in the scorched areas. On the day that I got to be a part of the reforestation effort, we planted 500 koa trees. This is a small amount compared to the 50,000 trees total that Ambyr and her crew will be planting over the months. Someday the barren land will be restored to its original condition flourishing with life.

kokee volunteers

Volunteers working together to outplant. Baylee filling up his tree bag. Photo: Cindy McArthur.

kokee planting

Hye Jung and Cindy planting koa trees. Photo: Baylee Jackson.

Baylee planting

Baylee and Cindy working hard and planting koa trees. Photo: Hye Jung Kim.


A new koa tree that was planted by the volunteers. Photo: Baylee Jackson.

Hye Jung koas

Hye Jung with the tree bag. Photo: Baylee Jackson.

kokee planting crew

Kim, Ambyr, Hye Jung, and Cindy ready for planting! Photo: Baylee Jackson.

waimea canyon

View of Waimea Valley. Photo: Baylee Jackson.

US Forest Service Scientist Cindy McArthur said: “It is really exciting planting the same native tree species that are used to build traditional voyaging canoes. We hope these trees will continue to support ecological and cultural healing in Hawaii.” Mahalo to all the people who helped fund the trip and made it possible for me to mālama ʻāina on Kauaʻi. Mahalo to Ambyr and DoFAW for their continued effort in reforesting Kōkeʻe and for allowing us to take a small part in the overall effort.

canoe painting

Canoe painting by Keala Kai. Photo: Baylee Jackson.

After outplanting, Hōkūleʻa crewmember and artist Uncle Keala Kai hosted us at his house. Once we arrived at his house, we got a tour of all the amazing canoe paintings and sketches that Keala Kai has made. We were invited to the gathering of Nā Kālai Waʻa o Kauaʻi members and family at Uncle Dennis Chun’s house so we went over and spent the evening and enjoyed dinner with ʻohana waʻa members. Before departing to rest for the night, we promised to meet them in the morning to help do work on Nā Māhoe, Kauaʻi’s voyaging canoe.

The next day we had the amazing opportunity to work on Nā Māhoe before returning to Oʻah

baylee on namahoe

Baylee on Nāmāhoe, Kaua’i’s voyaging canoe. Photo: Hye Jung Kim.

u. The amount of work that the Nā Māhoe crew puts in to building the canoe was amazing to witness and I was honored to have the opportunity to help, even if it was only for a few hours.

Please join PVS at the next Mālama Honua Earth Month Service Project on April in Waimea Valley on Oʻahu 30, 2016!

*To learn more about the Propagate Peace Project and how you can dedicate a tree to the Worldwide Voyage, visit our page. If you have any further questions, please email Hye Jung Kim at hyejung@pvshawaii.org.

If you are interested in being part of the Kōkeʻe Restoration Project by volunteering to outplant, please contact Ambyr at ambyr.u.mokiao-lee@hawaii.gov

More than Adventure

Beyond a daring expedition, the Worldwide Voyage is quite possibly the most important mission that Hawaiʻi has ever attempted. As people of Oceania, we are leading a campaign that gives voice to our ocean and planet by highlighting innovative solutions practiced by cultures around the planet.

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