If you walk along a certain dirt road in the Wahikuli watershed in West Maui, you will see a large sign made by the Coral Reef Alliance asking bikers for their kokua (help) in avoiding this road and taking an alternative road nearby instead.
What does this road a mile from the shoreline have to do with coral reefs? And how can bikers help?
In West Maui, water pollution from old dirt roads has led to a decline of coral cover from 30 to just 10 percent in the last fifteen years. Stormwater runoff also regularly causes the Hawaiʻi Department of Health to issue “Brown Water Advisories”, which are warnings to the public to avoid swimming or fishing because of risks to human health. Beach closures negatively impact Hawaii’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as the tourism industry.
CORAL, our partners, and volunteers from the community are working to address this threat by planting native plants and deep-rooted grasses along dirt roads that run adjacent to streams. Bringing back native vegetation helps trap sediments and stabilize the soil, while also improving habitat for native plants and animals and creating opportunities for local communities to reconnect with the land.
Every month CORAL hosts a Watershed Restoration Day, where a team of volunteers plants native seedlings across abandoned dirt roads. So far, over 200 volunteers have planted approximately 8,000 plants, which are effectively reducing sediment pollution across West Maui.
Motorcyclists recreationally traveling along these roads were unknowingly running over our seedlings and sediment traps, rendering them ineffective. When CORAL staff realized this, we decided to create an educational poster asking bikers for their collaboration.
The signs explain the connection between these plants and coral reefs and respectfully asks bikers to take an alternative road. The bikers are listening. Since the signs were installed, we no longer find our plants being damaged by biker wheels. We can all do our small part to help, and CORAL is excited to engage this new and unexpected ally in protecting Maui’s coral reefs!