Clearing the trails after Gita

“It's about people connecting … getting involved”
Source: NPAS media release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Volunteers have been helping the National Park of American Samoa clear trails from storm debris. Tropical Cyclone Gita had many devastating effects on American Samoa due to the high winds and heavy rainfall. The park suffered no facility damage, but all park trails were blocked by hundreds of downed trees.

 “The Park staff did amazing work prior to the cyclone to protect Park facilities from the storm, and we were lucky to suffer no structural damage. They have been working hard to clear trails blocked by downed trees from the recent cyclone, and their success is in part due to some dedicated and caring individuals who have volunteered their time to help,” Park Superintendent Scott Burch said on Friday.

“The Park is about connecting people to the important natural and cultural resources of American Samoa, and there is no better way to make a connection than to get involved.”

Leon Ezbitski of Pittston, Pennsylvania is one of those volunteers. He heard about the effects of Tropical Cyclone Gita on American Samoa, saw all the trails were closed by looking at the park website, and decided to help.

He took time off to vacation in American Samoa to volunteer clearing trails in the Park. “I’ve always been fascinated with South Pacific islands, and I saw this as an opportunity to make a difference,” Ezbitski said. “I am very grateful for having the experience and being welcomed by the trail crew. It wasn’t just about clearing the trails, it was about connecting with the people and the culture, and there is no better representation of fa’asamoa than the Park trail crew.”

Ben Goodwin is another who has made a difference. He contacted staff at the Park about getting a group from his church to come help clear the WWII Heritage Trail above Fagatogo. He coordinated a volunteer crew of over 30 people to spend an afternoon removing downed trees and cleaning up litter. They brought their own tools and worked hard on an afternoon after work to do what they could to help the Park reopen that trail.

On Monday, Cimone Fotuaika came into the Park Visitor Center to also volunteer to work with the trail crew. When asked what her interest was in volunteering for the Park, Fotuaiki said, “I love nature, and this is part of my heritage and culture. When I was in high school, the island was cleaner. Keeping our island clean and healthy is good for the environment, and for our soul.”

Fotuaika will receive training to help her carry out her volunteer duties, and will be starting work with the trail crew later this week in their regular duties, including clearing the trails in the Park.

Thanks to help of volunteers from American Samoa and far off places most Park trails are now open.

“Hazards still exist from the effects of Gita, and work on clearing some trails is still ongoing,” Superintendent Burch said. “Please check with staff at the Park Visitor Center in Pago Pago on the current status of trails before you go for a hike, and as always, please stay safe.”

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