Over the summer months, many have been watching closely as the restoration project, involving a significant ancient Hawaiian village, got under way at the corner of Poipu and Hoowili Roads. Many believed it was simply a capital improvement project along the roadside, but as the new perimeter wall took shape and culminated with the installation of four beautifully carved Kii, clearly this project was something much more.
Completely encompassed by roadways and encroaching development, the site is largely intact, but in desperate need of rehabilitation. The ancient kahua has suffered instances of flooding, disturbance and theft of sacred rocks. The complex has also succumbed to dense vegetation overgrowth, and its rock walls are deteriorating and partially collapsed. Without the current preservation and repair work, this rare and remarkable heritage site would have been lost.
Kaneiolouma is considered sacred to the Hawaiian culture as well as an important historic landmark for the residents of Kauai. Within the complex, an intricate system of walls and terraces trace the architecture of an ancient way of life. Remnants of house sites, fishponds, taro fields, above ground irrigation channels, shrines, altars and idol sites lie relatively undisturbed near the scene of epic battles and legends spanning a millennium. Near its center, the complex contains what may be the only intact Makahiki (ancient Hawaiian sporting arena) in the state as well as the sacred spring of Waiohai.
Members of the Native Hawaiian group Hui Malama O Kaneiolouma have unofficially cared for Kaneiolouma for more than a decade. The group has an enduring vision and mission to protect, restore, interpret and share Kaneiolouma as a public cultural preserve. Under a Stewardship Agreement signed in August 2010, the County of Kauai has granted formal custodianship of the complex to the group and it is through their leadership and hard work that their vision is now being realized.
The restoration has been planned in four phases and is expected to span the next seven years. Phase One, which commenced earlier this year, involves the completion of the security wall, followed by hurricane debris removal and a comprehensive 3D survey and documentation.
Phase Two, spanning years two and three of the seven year plan, involves wall restoration, the completion of a drainage and flood mitigation plan, creation of interpretive signage and a traffic plan.
Phase Three will begin with the reconstruction of the fishpond, restoration of taro fields and selected house sites connected by pathways, viewing points and interpretive signage will be installed. Upon the completion of Phase Three, the site will be officially opened to the public.
The project will be completed in Phase Four. The final work involves the design and completion of the visitor learning center and integration into the larger Poipu Beach Park complex.
As we watch the day-to-day work, we all realize what a significant project this is not only for the Hawaiian community but for all of us who love and care for Kauai and its special history. Through the passion and dedication of a community working together, Kahua O Kaneiolouma will emerge from hiding as a shining example of what divergent people can accomplish when they work together towards a common goal with Aloha and Lokahi (unity).
Thanks to Makai Properties (www.makaiproperties.com) for the article and great real estate options.
(Photo by Sheila Heathcote)