Made a difference… West Maui Kumuwai

West Maui Kumuwai has launched a campaign to save coral reefs starting in Maui residents’ backyards.

The team made up of community members and individuals from nonprofits and state and federal agencies has rallied residents to reduce polluted runoff along West Maui beaches.

“The main idea is to tell the stories of people in the community that are already doing things and inspire others to get involved,” said Tova Callender, volunteer and West Maui Watershed and Coastal Management coordinator. “I am a champion of West Maui Kumuwai, but I am not” the only one.

The federally funded program kicked off in June when 50 volunteers planted more than 1,000 plants at Hanakao’o (Canoe) Beach Park to beautify and to reduce soil runoff into the nearby Wahikuli stream. Volunteers continue to maintain the site.

In the past few months, the group has continued to reach out to residents through pledge programs and events that teach them how to build rain gardens, appropriate native plants to choose and proper uses of fertilizer.

Rain gardens absorb rainwater runoff from urban areas, such as roofs, driveways and walkways, and prevent erosion and water pollution from reaching beaches and the ocean.

“We’re really hoping people will learn how to do it and do it on their own because it’s really not that hard,” Callender said. “It’s a movement owned by all of us. Your backyard could be 300, 100 or 500 square feet and you can still build a rain garden.”

Some of the programs the group has launched include the Ocean Preferred Partners program that looks to Maui retailers to post signs and stickers on fertilizer and pesticide products that are less harmful to ocean wildlife. Three West Maui stores have been participants since November.

The group also started a pledge program this month, asking Maui landscape companies to commit to ocean-friendly practices. To date, its list includes MauiScapes LLC and A’Nutt Nurseries.

People who do not have backyards or do not own their own landscaping business can still make a difference, Callender said. She said residents can pick up after their pets, wash their cars on their lawns rather than the street and volunteer at beach cleanups and recycling events.

Since its launch, the group has accepted dozens of pledges from residents and is continually looking to build more rain gardens at homes, schools and businesses.

“Hopefully by this time next year, we will have added another seven rain gardens,” Callender said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugi