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Kohala Center’s KWP, Coqui-Free Waimea join forces

<p>Tara Seely, volunteer coordinator for Coqui-Free Waimea, enjoys meeting members of the Waimea community and helping them “keep Waimea quiet.” (PHOTO COURTESY OF COQUI-FREE WAIMEA)</p>

Tara Seely, volunteer coordinator for Coqui-Free Waimea, enjoys meeting members of the Waimea community and helping them “keep Waimea quiet.” (PHOTO COURTESY OF COQUI-FREE WAIMEA)

After two years as an independent volunteer organization, Coqui-Free Waimea is now a project of the Kohala Watershed Partnership of The Kohala Center, CFW founding member Kathy Rawle announced.

“We’re very excited about this partnership,” Rawle said. “KWP has been working to protect and sustain the ecosystem of Kohala Mountain for several years now. They have valuable knowledge and experience in building the structure that relies on volunteers to do this critical work. Our mission—to control the invasive coqui frog in Waimea—fits perfectly with KWP’s work in caring for the land and protecting our fragile ecosystem.”

Melora Purell, KWP coordinator since 2007, said the community support the coqui effort has received is a key component of success. “Between grants and donations, Coqui-Free Waimea has demonstrated that the people of Waimea care very much about their quiet Hawaiian nights and about the negative environmental impact of coqui frogs,” she said.

The money has enabled the group to buy equipment and citric acid for spraying infested areas and to hire some help.

This summer, Tara Seely joined CFW as part-time, seasonal volunteer coordinator. She has organized hunting/spraying events in many locations, as well as surveyed neighborhoods for frog locations and planned and implemented experimental treatment methods.

Seely studied science and environmental studies in college and came to Hawaii a year and a half ago to work with The Nature Conservancy and as an AmeriCorps intern at Ka’upulehu Dryland Forest. She currently works as a conservation field assistant for the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii at Pu’u Wa’awa’a.

“We’re so pleased to have Tara,” said Rawle. “Not only does she have a solid background for our work, she is young and energetic and, most important, really engaging. She’s inspiring people to get involved, especially younger folks.”

A recent event on Puu Manu included Teach for America’s Jordan Braschler and Ashley Greenberg, who teach in Waikoloa. An upcoming event is a frog hunt with The Friday Night Crew youth group.

“Getting people to go out at night to stomp around in the ginger patch searching for little frogs is a bit of a tough sell,” Rawle said with a laugh. “But these teens thought it sounded cool. Controlling coqui frogs is now a part of life in Hawaii for the long term, so we need kids to see that they have a role to play.”

To work on the serious infestations in places like the Hohola gulch, Coqui-Free Waimea is now advertising for a sprayer technician with experience driving a truck and heavy trailer, especially when negotiating it through neighborhoods, narrow streets and driveways and gates. Go to coquifreewaimea.org for the full job description.

Coqui-Free Waimea is a volunteer group that helps neighborhoods to control frogs. Call 885-FROG or email info@coquifreewaimea.org to report frogs in Waimea and to help. Send tax-deductible donations made out to The Kohala Center with “Coqui-Free Waimea” on the memo line to P.O. Box 437462, Kamuela, HI, 96743. “Like” us on Facebook. For more information, visit coquifreewaimea.org.