Community Steward Spotlight: Char Schulenburg

We would like to recognize Char Schulenburg of Aloha Aku Inn & Suites for her diligent and continuous efforts to mālama Lā‘ie wetlands.

La'ie Wetland Kihei Maui

Over the years, Char has been the watchdog for this natural habitat in Kihei, playing a crucial role not only in identifying litter and invasive plant issues as they arise, but also in taking quick action to resolve them.

From maintaining the public trash cans to large-scale litter removal to most recently the overgrowth of invasive water lettuce, Char has volunteered her own time as well as supplied labor and resources to making sure this public space has the opportunity to thrive.

“Laie [sic] is a unique remnant of the wetland ecosystem that covered much of North Kihei, before it was developed. Along with being one of the largest remaining patches of open space and wetlands in the area, Laie currently holds an array of native Hawaiian plants and animals that increasingly have no place to call home. Laie also has a large number of non-native plants, some of which could take over much of the site if left unchecked. With active management, Laie has the potential to provide the community of Kihei with a valuable biological gem, and provide a bit of refuge for the Hawaiian flora and fauna.”

– Forest and Kim Starr, “Botanical Survey of Waiohuli-Keokea (Laie) Kihei, Maui”, January 2010.

In one week’s time, the collaborative effort between Char’s crew, and MMN staff and volunteers resulted in the removal of over 11,000 pounds of water lettuce, essentially clearing all that was present mauka to makai. This will allow the native plants to grow unabated, and will restore the appropriate living conditions for the fish and water fowl that make Lā‘ie their home.

Removing invasive water lettuce from La'ie wetlands April 2016

Photo collage: (left) MMN staff and volunteers load out the water lettuce collected by Char’s crew earlier in the week; (top right) Lā‘ie with the drying water lettuce collected on the banks prior to off-site removal; (bottom right) piles of water lettuce ready to be loaded onto MMN’s truck.

“I am blessed to be in a position to give to the Aina [sic]. It called me to live in this place that is directly adjacent to the La‘ie wetlands. It is one of the last natural waterways in Kihei, we all need to care for it.”

Char SchulenburgCommunity Steward: Lā‘ie

Like many of Hawai‘i’s sensitive ecological areas, Lā‘ie is a place that needs continuous attention and care in order to thrive. People like Char give our natural resources the opportunity to grow strong and resilient, and we applaud her efforts and thank her for sharing her aloha ‘āina in such an instrumental way!

And the effort continues! We are dedicating this month’s Program Support Day to Lā‘ie to lend a hand to the continuing community stewardship action there. Join us!

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