Wetlands in south Maui historically served a significant cultural role for early settlements and an important ecological role for native flora and fauna. Beachfront development has drastically reduced both the number and size of south Maui wetlands. Pacific Whale Foundation is leading the effort to restore and preserve Paniaka Wetland located near the southern end of Big Beach (Oneloa Beach).
The Paniaka Restoration Project seeks to re-establish the wetland as a significant cultural and ecological site. All restoration activities are being conducted under a curator agreement with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and in partnership with the Oneloa Coalition, a group of community organizations and local residents dedicated to preserving Makena State Park.
Makena State Park was created when the State of Hawaii purchased the 165 acres along the southwestern coastline in order to protect the area’s wilderness, as well as three remaining wetlands: Paniaka, North Pu’u Ola’i, and South Pu’u Ola’i.
Today, Paniaka and its environs have been colonized by a number of non-native and invasive plant species, which are not only altering the physical landscape and natural ecosystem, but also restricting the growth of native plants. In addition, predators introduced into the area are hindering the recovery of key species, particularly endangered birds.
The Paniaka Restoration Project will restore native flora and fauna within and around the area, which includes removing alien vegetation, trapping and removing predators, installing a predator fence, and conserving the area once restored.
The second phase of the project will be to establish Paniaka Wetland as a destination that provides education for the approximately 450,000 people who visit Makena State Park annually. This will involve improving access to the area,installing signage that promotes cultural respect and that provides an overview of the history of the site, as well as on-site interpretation.
The project is expected to be completed in late 2018.
Public input and participation is crucial to the success of restoring Paniaka. Groups and individuals interested in getting involved with the Paniaka Restoration Project can contact [email protected]. Donations to the Paniaka Restoration Project are also greatly appreciated.
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