Hitting The Beach With A Purpose
Wednesday - April 15, 2009
Hanging out at Waikiki Beach was something many of us did while growing up. Then something happened. We got older and learned about responsibility.
Good news. Growing up doesn’t mean you have to stop hanging out at the beach, especially when it’s done with a purpose. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do.
“We’re asking for people to go out and watch what other people are doing at the beach and in the water,” says Jennifer Barrett. “If we can quantify how many people visit Waikiki and figure out what they’re doing, we can create educational projects that will help us become better stewards of the Waikiki coastline.”
Barrett is the coordinator of Reef Watch Waikiki, an effort organized by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program. The goal of the project is to develop a community-based education and coastal monitoring program that will help restore the health of Waikiki. The program is funded by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation and the Hawaii Tourism Authority with support from the Waikiki Improvement Association and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“Sea Grant managed a similar education program at Hanauma Bay for 20 years, so we thought, ‘Let’s do this at Waikiki,’” says Barrett. “Waikiki is accessible to so many people, this is such an easy way to volunteer and get involved.”
The Punahou graduate was inspired to take a lead role in protecting the environment while working at Hanauma Bay.
“It was one of my first jobs when I came home from college in 1996, and I really came to love that place and realized how special it is,” says Barrett, who spends her free time snorkeling. “Hanauma Bay and Waikiki are underappreciated, and it’s our responsibility to do something about that.”
Volunteers are trained to conduct the surveys and are asked to commit to two one-hour beach surveys per week. Barrett says the surveys will be done from Kaimana Beach near Kapiolani Park to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The stretch of shoreline is broken into 10 zones.
“We already have 30 people, but we could easily put hundreds to work collecting data,” says Barrett. “Some folks who live down there can do their surveys from their balconies or even before canoe paddling practice.”
Beach watchers will assess the types of human activities and environmental threats that are present in the water and on the beach within their survey zone. They’ll count beach users, dog walkers, shell collectors, picnickers and even the homeless.
“All we ask is for someone who genuinely cares about protecting Hawaii’s beaches and reefs,” says Barrett. “We hope this will prove to be a fun and simple way for the community to get involved. Anyone who enjoys spending time outside, people watching or exploring Waikiki can help out by devoting just a couple of hours a week to the project.”
Once sufficient data is gathered and compiled into the project’s Human Use Monitoring Program database, Barrett plans to share the information with Hawaii Tourism Authority and other leaders in the visitor industry.
“The information will be valuable to those who benefit from the beauty of Waikiki Beach,” says Barrett.
She hopes the information can help educate business owners as well as visitors about the ocean. Volunteer information and orientation sessions will be held throughout April.
“This is really a great chance for those who live, work and play in Waikiki to do something for the future,” says Barrett. “It is our responsibility.”
It’s also the perfect excuse for hanging out at Waikiki Beach ... again.
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