All volunteers who make a difference in the community by improving the environment deserve recognition, but volunteering every day for ten years and transforming an unkempt coastline into a thriving native ecosystem represents an extraordinary achievement.
Mike Perry, retired Lahaina Postmaster, has been instrumental in transforming 20 acres of Kanaha Beach Park, makai of the airport in Kahului, into a well-cared for habitat that supports diverse native plants and wildlife. Over the years, and with occasional help, Perry has cleared trash, pruned the understory of trees, trimmed back the kiawe, tended the Park’s wetlands, removed invasive weeds – an ongoing, endless chore – and nurtured heritage species that are now protecting the natural dunes.
“The County takes care of the campground in the park and mows the grassy areas, and Maui Community Work Day removes the green waste, but there’s a lot to do. I always welcome help, and there’s a lot that volunteers can learn about a unique environment of native plants growing naturally in a beachfront setting,” says Perry. (Volunteers can reach Perry through Maui Community Work Day). “Because this work does not depend on outside funding or grants, it’s sustainable all the while the voluntary effort continues,” he adds. Many locations around the State benefit from one-time improvement grants and volunteer labor, but Kanaha is special because of Perry’s ever-presence.
Before transforming Kanaha one section at a time, Perry taught himself about native plants. He apprenticed as a volunteer with Maui Community Work Day, the Nature Conservancy, and the Sierra Club, and on environmental projects on Molokai and the Big Island. “Over the years, Kanaha became a pleasant, family-friendly beach park,” observes Sharon Balidoy, coach of Lae`ula O Kai canoe club, which has been based at the park for 20 years. “Mike Perry is a treasure. He is a one-man force who tirelessly works hard and has made a significant difference in our community.”