KAILUA-KONA — Armed with trash bags, gloves and pickers, about two dozen volunteers took to the streets Friday morning in Kona, cleaning up trash others left behind.
Blue Zones Project partnered with the Lions Club, Queen Liliuokalani Trust and community volunteers to pick up rubbish looping from the mauka side of Queen Kaahumanu Highway from Palani Road north to Makala Boulevard up to Kamakaehu Avenue and back down Palani, creating a clean ring around the area.
“We’re always looking for places to make a community impact,” said Kirstin Kahaloa, Blue Zones Project West Hawaii community engagement lead, who spearheaded the cleanup effort. “Our community does a great job with keeping the village clean, and beach cleanup days, but the highway gets neglected.”
Kahaloa said the area designated for cleanup was chosen because of the amount of trash piling up as a result of homeless pathways crossing through the corridor.
Since that land is privately owned by Queen Liliuokalani Trust, she contacted it for permission to clean the perimeter. Not only did the trust agree, it provided manpower to assist and a truck to pick up the abundant trash bags left along the route.
Mana Purdy, who works for the trust, was one of the volunteers removing refuse from the side of the road.
“It’s awesome to see the community come out to volunteer on a Friday morning in the heat; people who actually care about their community,” said Purdy.
Kahaloa said research shows people are happier when they volunteer, and volunteering is a vehicle to live longer and healthier.
“To be well, we need to take care of the things around us,” she said. “The natives knew that healthy land equals healthy people.”
Lions Club 2nd Vice District governor-elect Mitch Tam said the club previously partnered with Blue Zones for the New Year’s Eve cleanup at Higashihara Park. He was contacted by Kahaloa and rallied the troops to assist in Friday’s efforts.
“It made sense to do this because what we are doing is cleaning up the environment and getting exercise at the same time. This is a partnership we are trying to forge,” said Tam. “Working together we can get more done.”
The group of volunteers planned to continuing the cleanup effort in the area below the Hawaiian Telecom building, where the state hired a private contractor to dismantle and clean a homeless encampment in April, but after careful consideration they decided the health and safety risks to volunteers were too great.
Kahaloa said Blue Zones will continue to initiate community cleanups and is seeking input from the North and South Kona communities on what areas need the most attention.
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