While keeping tabs on breaking news stories, I've been wondering why there seem to have been so many hiking-related injuries and fatalities in recent months.
Some blame social media and the Internet for leading thrill-seekers and inexperienced hikers to unsanctioned trails that were formerly known to more experienced or knowledgeable hikers. Is it social media's fault? Is it today's quest to capture the coolest selfie, teetering on the edge of a mountain ridge? I don't know the answers. I know that plenty of experienced hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have been going on some of these trails for years, without incident. Sometimes, I think it's just an unfortunate accident. No matter what, any hiking accident is tragic.
But social media can also be used in a positive way.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the strategy of using social media to warn people of the dangers of hiking Sacred Falls with this video. Interestingly, landowner Kamahameha Schools took a different tactic, sending out "cease and desist" requests, according to this Hawaii News Now report, asking more than a dozen bloggers to stop promoting hiking trails on their properties. The resulting consequences are sad – Mariner's Ridge, one of my favorite hikes on Oahu (and the one where I met my husband), is now fenced off.
Today's column features a non-profit called 808 Cleanups, which was founded by a group of avid hikers who want to use social media for good.
Founder Michael David Loftin and his friends first became concerned when they found nature tagging below Koko Crater Arch. They decided to do something about it — clean it up, educate and encourage others to steward these beautiful places on Oahu.
The mission of 808 Cleanups is "to empower communities in restoring their natural environments through decentralized beach, graffiti, hiking trail and marine debris cleanups." Volunteers from 808 Cleanups are "striving to keep these areas beautiful for future generations" through an Adopt a Site program, education and political advocacy.
So, with a decentralized philosophy, anyone can lead a beach cleanup — whether you're a party of one and two or a party of 20.
"808 Cleanups can occur many ways," said Loftin, a Peace Corps veteran and lifelong environmentalist. "I would say 80 percent are people doing their own cleanups wherever they are. Sharing the stories is really important even if its' a small cleanup."
Taking your dog for a walk on the beach? Make sure you pick up after your dog, of course, and pick up some marine debris on the shoreline while you're at it. Going for a hike with some friends? Pick up any litter that you see along the trails and carry it out with you. The philosophy is to leave it better than when you got there.
Post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #808cleanups and inspire others to do the same.
Follow the Leave No Trace outdoors ethic.
If people are using social media to find formerly unknown hikes, Loftin figures it can also be used to encourage people to respect nature and be responsible hikers and stewards of nature. The goal, he says, is to "make it better than when you found it."
808 Cleanup volunteers recently helped clean layers of trash from Tantalus Lookout (getting the community and Hawaii Discovery Tours involved), bonfire debris from Kaiwi Shoreline and continue to steward Liliuokalani Botanical Park, a city park that has also been neglected. Volunteers who clean a site at least twice a month and post to social media can get a free cleanup kit from 808 Cleanups' sponsor, Home Depot. Loftin usually meets volunteers on site to deliver the cleanup kits.
Intro to 808 Cleanups
Pride Rock cleanup (Lanikai pillbox hike)