Diver attaching Mooring

Coastal Stewardship

As coastal resource use continues to increase in Hawaiʻi, bringing with it both problems and opportunities, Malama Kai Foundation is supporting the rising need for environmental education and sustainable community-based management of coastal resources.

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Community-Based Coastal Stewardship

To support the rising need for environment education and sustainable community-based management of coastal resource, Malama Kai Foundation has utilized Harold K.L. Castle FoundationNOAA BWET, and Kukio Fund grant funding to launch the expansion of a successful pilot program.

The program focuses on developing relationships with regular users (surfers, fishers, campers) of a site, landowners, kupuna, and community decision-makers in order to move toward socially inclusive, sustainable community-based management. While conventional efforts to manage and safeguard resources are often off-the-ground and do not focus efforts on contemporary regular beach visitors, this project empowers these regular users to engage in coastal stewardship.

Malama Kai Foundation is seeking to shift coastal management toward sustainable, self-directed caretaking of resources by and for the people who know and visit them regularly. The framework is structured around:

  • Acknowledging the connection and knowledge people have to an area (focusing on those who know, love, and frequent the area most);
  • Identifying local concerns, ideas, and insight on stewarding coastal areas; and 
  • Mobilizing recreational users and community assets (time, energy, knowledge, connection to the area) toward the goal of sustainable, long-term, community-empowering stewardship.


Nurturing Stewardship at Kauhola Point, North Kohala
After examining the successes and challenges of our previous pilot project, we determined that the ideal site would be a coastal area that has a variety of recreational users, community/ cultural significance, and a high level of social and environmental need. In 2009, Malama Kai Foundation selected Kauhola Point and the adjacent Keawaeli Bay in North Kohala as a focal area to further support, understand, and grow community-based coastal stewardship.

After many meetings with a diversity of individuals, we discovered there are three major points of common interest among disparate groups:

  1. Love and connection to place (in this case, Kauhola Point and its adjacent waters); 
  2. A willingness to be involved in caretaking and management actions; and
  3. A desire for Kohala’s youth to develop a greater connection to the natural and cultural landscape and for them to become the next generation of stewards.

To address these common issues, we launched Ocean Warriors, an after-school place-based environmental youth education program. Elizabeth Pickett has spent the last three years developing and implementing this youth program, combining environmental education, local coastal stewardship, and positive mentorship of local youth. Concurrently, a small group of citizen volunteers began collecting public use and environmental data at Kauhola Point, and conducting informal interviews and surveys to better understand the issues most important to those who regularly spend time in the area. In December 2010, the Ocean Warriors and community volunteers came together with landowners, surfers, and others concerned about the area for a weekend cleanup and camping event. The event was a great success and marked the first of many stewardship activities to take place in the area.


Coincidentally, a 27-acre parcel at Kauhola Point went up for sale just as the stewardship efforts were gaining momentum. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is working with the landowner to purchase and protect the area in perpetuity as open space. In its efforts to raise the money necessary to secure the property, TPL has highlighted the stewardship efforts of the volunteers and Ocean Warriors youth program as a valuable asset to the area and a model for the region. The public use and environmental data collected by volunteers with our project are now being used to make higher-level management and funding decisions.

Kauhola Point is an area that is significant to many people throughout North Kohala and beyond. Surfers, fishermen, kupuna, concerned citizens, and landowners have long been caring for the area in important ways. This project recognizes those efforts, draws in and supports local youth to participate in stewardship, and offers additional information and resources to the community effort wherever possible.

Through this approach and the lessons learned both at the pilot site and Kauhola Point, the Malama Kai Foundation is in the process of creating a guide for communities who want to establish their own community-based coastal stewardship efforts. Stay tuned for future publications, information, and a possible workshop series!


More Education & Outreach Information