Duane Sparkman, Chief Engineer at the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, is the 2021 recipient of the Mālama i ka ʻĀina award. The award is given each year to recognize the efforts in the landscape and agricultural community towards stopping the spread of invasive species in Maui County. The award is presented by the Maui Invasive Species Committee, the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, and the County of Maui.
With his roots in landscaping, Sparkman worked his way up to become part-owner of a large landscape company that maintained 65 acres of resorts along Maui’s coastlines before coming on board with the Maui Westin Resort and Spa. Along with his day job, Sparkman has pursued his passion of learning about Maui’s unique environment. He has volunteered with over a dozen conservation organizations, removing invasive species and planting endangered plants in some of Maui’s most pristine places. In 2012, he worked at Haleakalā National Park with their resource management team, which drastically changed his view of landscape maintenance.
Through his experience, Sparkman came to a realization: “If I don’t have to fertilize a native forest, why do I need to fertilize urban landscapes?” He then proceeded to transform the landscape practices at the Maui Westin Resort and Spa’s 12-acre oceanfront resort to organic practices.
Additionally, Sparkman sits on the board of directors of Maui Cultural Lands as their botanist and is the project manager for a 72-acre Hawaiian cultural reserve called Kīpuka ʻOlowalu. He also has a consulting company called Edaphic Perspective, where he assists homeowners, landowners and municipalities transition to organic landscape practices, and has recently partnered with the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council to assist them with their organic land management division
Sparkman’s nomination stems from his passion in seeing thriving and healthy ecosystems from mauka to makai. He has affected not only the industry he works in, but countless other organizations throughout Maui, by sharing his knowledge and skills with community members, respecting and promoting Hawaiian culture and practices, working with local non-profit organizations, and continuing to improve sustainable landscape practices within Hawaii’s resort industry.
Due to Covid-19, the award was presented in a small, socially distanced award ceremony in West Maui and filmed by videographer Spencer Hyde of Dgtl Film. The presenters included Allison Wright, President of the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, and Adam Radford, Manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee. This year’s commemorative plaque featured a sculpture of a Maui Parrotbill perched on a koa branch by glass artist Jupiter Nielsen. The Mālama i ka ʻĀina award is a part of the 2021 Maui Arbor Day Garden Expo and Tree Giveaway held November 2-6. This year, local experts will offer tree and plant care lectures and webinars and the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens will host a nursery open house in addition to giving away more than 1,000 Hawaiian trees. More information on Arbor Day can be found at arbordayexpo.com, and the short film can be found at mauiinvasive.org/MIKA.