My first service project as a newly inducted member of the Kahala Sunrise Rotary Club was helping to clean the Waikalua Loko I’a Fishpond in Kaneohe. After an early morning drive through the Ko’olaus via Likelike Highway, I arrived to a picturesque view of the mountains and the bay. Although laughable to my former neighbors in Minnesota, Oahu has been a bit chillier lately which was perfect for the day’s physical activities in the muddy fish pond.

Kahala Sunrise Rotary Club and EarlyAct volunteers (photo credit: Ryan Kawamoto)

We had a strong turnout from our club along with kids from the EarlyAct program. This cleanup volunteering event was a meet up of several rotary clubs around the island. It was encouraging to see so many rotary participants and their families who took the time to give back to the community.

Introducing myself to the group (photo credit: Ryan Kawamoto)

The morning began with a big group gathering. We were provided a brief overview and history of the fish ponds in the Hawaiian islands, along with insight into their cultural significance. We also learned more about the kind of research that takes place at the fish pond, helping to inform scientists about a variety of topics including the impacts of global warming. After the overview we went around the circle and introduced ourselves individually.

No limu picking this year! (photo credit: Ryan Kawamoto)

I was told that last year the rotary club helped to gather up invasive limu that was clogging up the waters of the fish pond. I was prepared to do the same and be knee deep in water.  However, during the overview session we learned that there was almost no invasive limu this year, due to the slightly warmer waters as a result of global warming. So instead of picking limu we helped to cut and clear invasive mangrove trees!

Hauling away the cleared mangrove trees (photo credit: Ryan Kawamoto)

Needless to say it was a muddy affair. The mangrove thicket we were assigned to begin clearing was growing in a half inch thick layer of mud. Armed with hatchets and saws we cleared away a decent portion of the area in a couple of hours. It was explained to us that the mangroves took up a 3 acre area of land to start back about 7 years ago. Today, through the efforts of the foundation that operates the fish pond and volunteers, the mangroves are now down to occupying about a half acre.

Some of the Kahala Sunrise crew taking a breather (photo credit: Kimberly Tom)

Overall the experience at the Waikalua Loko I’a Fishpond was exhausting, fun, and fulfilling. The area we helped clear will become smaller ponds for the foundation to grow native limu. We left with a sense of accomplishment and the need for a nice hot shower.