Tuesday, January 19, 1999

Maui residents
organize to restore
historic fishpond

By Gary Kubota


KIHEI, Maui -- The black rocks of Ko'ie'ie Fishpond at Kalepolepo rise from the sea like the glistening back of a lizard waiting for a meal.

Centuries ago, it served as a royal fishpond for a chief of Kula and his people maintained it as a source of food in arid south Maui.

Now, amid condominiums, a group of Kihei residents is enlisting residents and visitors to restore the pond.

The pond, listed on the Hawaii and national registers of historic places, is along a route once used for the annual Makahiki procession around Maui and believed to have belonged to royalty, according to research by the National Park Service.

The research notes the religious importance of the general area because of two heiau that once existed mauka of the pond and the legendary appearance at Kalepolepo of the sacred Mo'o or lizard goddess and guardian, Mokuhinia.

In the mid-1800s, the area served as a retreat for Hawaiian monarchs, and native Hawaiian historian David Malo lived about a half mile from the pond, the research said.

"The importance of Kalepolepo Pond in the history of the Kihei area is that it is one of very few visible material remains of its early settlement, and of a lifestyle that was well adapted to the Kihei environment," the research said.

Patrick Ryan, vice president of the "Aoao O Na Loko I'a O Maui" (Association for the Fishponds of Maui), said his group plans to use the pond to educate people about the environment and culture of Hawaii.

"It's fabulous for children and families or anyone who's timid of surf because the fishpond walls break the surf," Ryan said.

Ryan, whose nonprofit group was instrumental in having the pond listed as a historic site, said the location is also ideal because of its accessibility to the public.

Facing the pond near South Kihei Road is the county's Kalepolepo Beach Park, with a parking lot and restroom. To the north is the office of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The group is scheduled to celebrate the unveiling of a painting of Ko'ie'ie Fishpond by New York artist Frank Daniel at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the sanctuary visitor center.

Sanctuary Manager Allen Tom said students are picnicking at the park after touring the whale exhibits, then exploring the pond with association volunteers.

"It's really a great opportunity to do a variety of things," Tom said.

The three-acre pond, which is about 5 feet deep, is enclosed by a fringed reef and once had a gate that controlled the entry and exit of fish.

Ryan said fish were caught elsewhere and put into the pond and kept there until food was required.

"It was something like 17th century refrigeration," he said.

Ryan's wife, Cathi, said the pond now seems to serve as an incubator for small fish before they venture out to the open ocean, including a variety of butterfly fish. "They're the same as in the open ocean except they're two inches long," she said. "It's like swimming in an aquarium."

The group plans to demonstrate some traditional methods of food gathering, including net throwing and fishing with a hook and line.

Ryan said rebuilding the fishpond wall will be difficult because the group will need to apply for a number of federal, state and county permits, a process expected to take two years and cost an estimated $100,000.

"It's an uphill battle," he said. "We've got to go through the same process as if we were putting in a commercial harbor."

Ryan said the group has about 50 members from the community but no major financial backing.

"It's just volunteers who have a love for the fishpond," he said. "We're hoping to attract the interest of some of the major companies on Maui."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin