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Lady of the Mountain - Mary Evanson
By Liz Janes-Brown, staff writer
Reprinted from The Maui News - May 6, 2007

"I love that mountain," says Mary Evanson of Haleakala.

She first saw the crater when she was a teenager in the 1930s and the road to the summit had been completed. The family stayed in the Kalahaku rest house and woke to ice.

“The sunrise was awesome and the crater was even bigger than it had been the day before,” Mary wrote in “My Haleakala.”

“I was spellbound. My affection for Haleakala was forever sealed.”

Mention the environment, historical and cultural preservation and Mary comes to mind immediately. She’s been on Maui for 30 years contributing to Maui’s natural beauty and protecting its resources. Her name is synonymous with environmental activism.

At the Earth Day celebration at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Mary was honored for her vision and leadership. As we head toward Mothers’ Day next weekend, it’s no stretch to think of her as a wise woman guardian of the mountain.

During the ceremony, former superintendent of Haleakala National Park, Don Reeser listed her many accomplishments.

“In 1997, after an extraordinary record with the Sierra Club taking on tough environmental issues, she decided there should be a group to focus exclusively on Maui’s majestic Haleakala. It wasn’t just the crater she was interested in and concerned about, it was pretty much the whole mountain. Therefore she sought out a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service and founded Friends of Haleakala National Park.”

“I love that mountain,” Mary repeated in an interview. “And I want it to be protected for future generations.”

In her gentle but firm manner, the soft-spoken 85-year-old woman continues to think of Haleakala as “my mountain.” She has resigned from the board of directors but not the Friends and she has no plans of retiring. She’s still active, heading up the adopt-a-nene program, writing the newsletter and taking part in community events.

Over the years, she’s raised money for park programs, challenged the proposal to move antennas from the summit to along the southwest rift, fought for better alien species programs at the airport, was a litigant to require an EIS for the Hawaii Superferry, questioned the need for more observatories on Haleakala, supported legislation to reduce helicopter noise in the crater, raised awareness of the miconia threat, spoke out against damage by commercial horse tours using Sliding Sands trail, assisted in nonprofit financing of Kalaupapa’s Quest for Dignity traveling exhibit, and has sponsored many lectures on resource issues, Reeser told the Earth Day crowd.

In 1999, she became the Honorary Superintendent of Haleakala National Park for Outstanding Sustained Contributions. She got an official hat and instant access to the superintendent’s office.

She remembers being in the center of the crater doing a silversword count with Carmelle Crivellone more than 20 years ago when Hurricane Iwa hit. They just made it to Kapalaoa cabin when it began to rain.

“I had never really appreciated how well-located the cabins are and how well-built,” Mary wrote. “ We spent a sleepless night with the wind and rain pelting the cabin and rainwater flowing in the door.”

In the morning, the skies had cleared and they headed to the parking lot. “One of the reasons I love the crater is that when you are in there, it’s just you and Haleakala, no other world exists,” she remembered.

“I’ve always liked to hike and work outdoors Mary said. “You get to do really fun stuff, go places you ordinarily don’t go.”

In one of her first forays into the crater with the Sierra Club, she wasn’t sure she would be much help in a fencing project, but Terry Quisenberry, who had mounted an effort to recruit volunteers, told her she could carry the fence clips and she was delighted as a child.

One of my personal memories is one trip into the crater when Mary was along and the ohelo berries were in abundance. We had ohelo berry pancakes, ohelo berry syrup and gathered enough of the little red fruit to take home for jam.

She embraces the entire mountain, from coastline to coastline.

“It’s the diversity of the mountain,” she said. “Glorious views, colors and such a contrast on either side. The whole southwest rift zone connects with Kahoolawe. It’s chicken skin to see the sunrise on Haleakala from Kahoolawe. It’s like a diamond.”

Friends of Haleakala National Park
P.O. Box 322 ~ Makawao, HI 96768
(808) 572-9724 ~