The successful preservation of the last two parcels along the Ka Iwi coastline signifies a new era of environmental stewardship that honors the legacy of many community volunteers who saw a need to protect our precious coastal area more than 40 years ago.

The experience volunteering as Youth Coordinator during the summer 2015 Save Ka Iwi Mauka fundraising campaign gave me the fortunate opportunity of befriending a diverse group of volunteers who came from a range of ages, communities, and backgrounds. All of these community stewards came in eager to raise the remaining $500,000 that was needed to preserve the Ka Iwi Muaka lands in perpetuity. As a group, we persevered to reach our fundraising goal and made many sacrifices in the process.

Through the campaign, I was able to learn from several volunteers who were involved in preserving the Ka Iwi coastline since the 1980s. These connections have afforded me the opportunity to learn the history of Ka Iwi and how this grassroots movement started 40 years ago. The individual stories and sacrifices our elder volunteers made over the past 40 years continues to inspire me on a daily basis. Their stories, sacrifices, and advices has shaped my perspective in countless ways. I hope to follow the path many of the Ka Iwi Coalition stewards who came before me to ensure that their contributions are preserved for generations to come.

The personal sacrifices I made during the Save Ka Iwi Mauka fundraising campaign is no different than many others who advocated for the very same cause before my time.

My Adolescent Connection To Ka Iwi

During my adolescent years, my father would often take me to Ka Iwi to enjoy the beautiful scenery and hike the nearby Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. As I grew older, I gradually developed a strong connection to the Ka Iwi coastline along with the sense of duty to contribute to my East Oahu community.

My years as a Boy Scout left a strong impression on me to always find opportunities to preserve our environment through service. To fulfill my service hours requirement towards attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, I assisted in organizing the annual Ka Iwi Earth Day clean-up and recruited the rest of my Boy Scout troop to join for several consecutive years.

Attending Kaiser High School gave me more opportunities to get involve in the community, which ultimately led me to joining the Ka Iwi Mauka campaign. While covering a local development project as an editor for the Cougar Connection (Kaiser High School’s newspaper), I got acquainted with Livable Hawaii Kai, the nonprofit organization’s President, Elizabeth Reilly.

Livable Hawaii Kai Hui prides itself in working collaboratively with all stakeholders throughout the community to find positive solutions to preserve the last remaining undeveloped lands in East Oahu with emphasis on cultural and natural resources. This approach captivated me to realize that a lot can be done to protect the environment by taking initiative to advance positive solutions. This acquaintance turned into a consistent working relationship as I volunteered at Livable Hawaii Kai Hui’s community work day events to complete a community service requirement for graduation.

Volunteering For Ka Iwi Mauka Campaign

A few weeks after high school graduation, I read in a news article that Livable Hawaii Hui and the Trust for Public Land partnered to take the initiative of purchasing the Ka Iwi Mauka lands. $500,000 was still needed to be raised through private donations within a four-month window to purchase the 181-acre area.

I immediately sent an email expressing my interest to join the campaign. After reading my email, Elizabeth gave me the arduous task to upstart the engagement of youth volunteers to support the campaign under my lead. I accepted the task knowing that this was the community’s only opportunity to complete the puzzle of a 40-year plight. We had to save the last 181 acres of the land that was under periodic threat of development.

Throughout my entire summer break, I spent most of my days promoting the Save Ka Iwi Mauka campaign in the community. The number of tasks I helped complete with the campaign’s youth volunteers was endless including sign-waving, stuffing envelopes, and interviewing in front of the news camera.

Initially, many people doubted that the campaign would succeed and were hesitant to donate. However, through hard work and perseverance, the East Oahu community united in saving a coastline many have enjoyed.

A week after joining the campaign as Youth Coordinator, I was already leading the campaign’s daily sign-waving effort on Kalanianaole Highway. On the second day of sign-waving, Nā Kuaʻāina o Waimānalo member Kalani Kalima pulled his car to the side of the road to learn more about our cause. At the time, I thought Kalima was just another concerned community member.

The author, Kendrick Chang, working to save the Ka Iwi coastline with other volunteers. Kendrick Chang

It was not until weeks later when I learned that the sign-waving campaign led Kalima and Nā Kuaʻāina o Waimānalo to organize a community fundraiser at Olomana Golf Course. Their fundraiser on Aug. 20, 2015 helped us eclipse the $500,000 mark, a full week before the deadline.

Throughout the campaign, I was moved by the many community members who stepped forward to volunteer and donate to the cause. On the same day that Civil Beat published Curt Sanburn’s column on the Ka Iwi Mauka fundraising effort, longtime Sierra Club and community leader Randy Ching wrote a comment inquiring how the public can contact the campaign’s leaders to get involved.

A couple weeks later, Ching, a retired math teacher, came to the campaign’s weekly meeting to fold fundraising letter and personally donate $100,000. Ching’s generous contribution came at a critical time during the start of the campaign when many others doubted that the campaign would succeed. In all, the fundraising campaign was a successful grassroots effort. We are grateful for the outpouring support from the community that led to 1,600 donors to support the Save Ka Iwi Mauka campaign.

Aftermath Impact Of Ka Iwi Mauka Campaign

Despite the success of being part of the effort to preserve the Ka Iwi Mauka lands, the summer 2015 months brought an unexpected challenge to my life. My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2015 during the start of the campaign and passed away a month later. I’m still hurt that my dad passed away not knowing that the Ka Iwi Mauka lands has been preserved and having the opportunity to see me start my freshman year at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Since the Ka Iwi Mauka campaign, I am proud of being able to continue serving my community back home while attending college on the mainland. During the semester, I assist Livable Hawaii Kai Hui periodically in its communication pieces and social media presence. I spend my summer and winter breaks volunteering on various project tasks for the organization in a Youth Advisor role.

Also, I’m fortunate that the Trust For Public Land’s Hawaii office connected me with their colleagues in Washington, D.C. During the spring 2017 semester, I intern at the Trust For Public Land’s Federal Affairs office twice a week and assist in their advocacy efforts to protect more lands like the Ka Iwi Mauka parcels which are an integral part of the entire 7-mile coastal drive.

The Ka Iwi Mauka campaign illustrates the possibility when our youth is given the chance to become environmental stewards. I’m hopeful that my youthful energy and perspective helped bring over the next generation that will advocate to preserve undeveloped lands that carry sentimental value and cultural significance to the community. I find that my environmental activism can only motivate others to be part of a positive effort to benefit our community.

While away in college, I’m proud to witness from afar that my generation continues to be inspired to carry on the legacy of our elder protectors of the Ka Iwi coastline. The regular presence of Kaiser High School students and teacher Paul Balazs partnering with community organizations to organize regular clean ups along the Ka Iwi Makai lands is one shining example.

In the end, the East Oahu community should give themselves a pat on the back for supporting the Ka Iwi Coast Campaign to complete a legacy of environmental advocacy to preserve our coastal parcel from unwanted development. During a time when many are concern of our future, the preservation of the entire Ka Iwi coastline provides a bright path of the potential that can be accomplish by uniting together as a community.

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About the Author

  • Kendrick Chang
    Kendrick Chang is a senior at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and grew up in East Oahu. At GWU, he is a political communication major in the School of Media and Public Affairs and president of the Hawaii Club. He is also a youth advisor for the Livable Hawaii Kai Hui and a member of the Save Ka Iwi Coalition and the Hawaii Kai Lions Club.