Sadly, the past year was a pretty tragic year for the Big Island, but moving into the new year (and decade), there were some pretty great things that happened, too. Here are some of our favorite good news stories from 2019. Here’s hoping that we have even more great news in 2020!
It was a good year for the ʻāina:
The Big Island polystyrene foam ban went into effect as of July. Though it’s taken a bit of adjustment for restaurants and customers, this is a huge step in helping to keep chemicals and fossil fuels into the ground and water.
No major environmental issues came this year. We had no life-threatening or property-threatening lava eruptions this year and our hurricane season was relatively mild.
Bike sharing finally launched in Hilo with Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawai’i installing four stations throughout town. Now with six bike share locations, the bike share program initially launched in Kona in 2016.
Engineering students from Quebec brought their giant beach vacuum to Hawai’i Island to clean up microplastics from the sands of Kamilo Point. The Hoola One cleaned up over one hundred pounds of microplastics in its first few hours of use, and could really prove to be a game-changer in the fight against microplastic pollution.
It was a good year for wildlife:
On March 20, 2019 a beautiful baby boy was born to Hawaiian monk seal mom RA20 on a Kona Coast beach. The little guy was eventually named Kaulana, microchipped, and tagged so that volunteers from and scientists from The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital can keep an eye on each member of this endangered species.
Other great news for animals on the Endangered Species list, in December Hawai’i’s state bird, the nene, was removed from the Endangered Species List. They are still listed as protected, but their numbers have rebounded to approximately 3,000 due to breeding programs. When the birds were originally placed on the list in 1967 there were only 30-50 birds in the wild.
Finally, another pair of endangered species, the ‘Alala (Hawaiian crows) exhibited nesting behaviors in the wild following the first release of the birds two years ago. More wild releases continued throughout the year as captive-bred birds were placed into protected habitats to help repopulate the critically endangered species, the last of the Hawaiian crows that came to the island before any human settlers.
In addition, construction began in November on a new ‘Alala aviary at Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. The aviary will be home to two non-breeding birds, giving the public a chance to see one up close for the first time in many years.
Great news for all of them, but it’s still really awful that so many of our native species are on the Endangered Species List.
It was a good year in sports:
Hilo High Viking Keanu Keolanui stunned fans as he kicked an insane 55-yard field goal with just two seconds left to win the game at the state championship game in December. The history-making kick still has some of us struggling to pick our jaws up off the floor. Congrats to the entire team and coaching staff!
In addition to good Big Island sports news, Maui’s baseball team went to the Little League World Series (August) and the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors beat out BYU in the Hawai’i Bowl (December).
New businesses came to the island:
The airlines saw a new competitor join the Hawaiian market as Texas-based Southwest Airlines began service to multiple points in the state, including Kona on the Big Island, with service to Hilo starting in early 2020. Southwest also offers interisland flights, the first competitor for Hawaiian Airlines to operate interisland flights in the past few years.
After a few delays, Big Island medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors to patients needing some natural relief.
Some Big Islanders got a taste of fame:
UH Hilo alumnus Joshua Tavares ended the year on tour as part of a touring Broadway production of Rent. Tavares plays Angel, a transgender woman, is this acclaimed play celebrates 20 years on the stage. Tavares and the rest of the cast threw up the mauna symbol at the end of their show in Oahu to show support for kia’i on the mauna.
We got to see Maria Short, owner of Short N Sweet Bakery in Hilo, step outside of her cooking comfort zone as she competed on Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship.” Thanks for helping us learn what a Kransekake is, Maria!
Pahoa couple Ash Cottrell and Mat Micheletti competed on Paramount Network’s “Battle of the Fittest Couple.” The couple is known as “The Yoga Couple” and had the chance to pit their yoga-toned bodies against other types of athletic couples for a chance to win $100,000.
Post-eruption recovery continued:
After plenty of work, Highway 132 in Puna reopened in November, which finally gave residents access to their properties after the highway was cut off during the Kilauea eruption. Nearly 100 people were on-site at the reopening ceremony that included a blessing ceremony.
Trails at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park continued to be improved, repaired, and reopened after the eruption, giving visitors even more breathtaking views of the island. In addition, the parking lot at Devastation Trail reopened, helping to alleviate some of the overcrowding.
What were some of your favorite Big Island good news stories from 2019?
Featured photo by David Restivo, courtesy NPS.